Transformation in The Metamorphosis: Theme & Quotes

Instructor: Kevin Watson

Kevin has taught college English and has master's degrees in Applied Linguistics and Creative Writing.

In Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis'', everything in the life of Gregor Samsa undergoes change. In this lesson, you will learn how the stress of Gregor's unfulfilling existence lead to a series of changes in himself and his family.

Brought over the Threshhold

The Metamorphosis is a story all about change, and change is what happens to every major character in the story. The change comes in response to the stresses life brings and, in some cases, overcome the person. In other instances, the person overcomes the stress and prevails.

Gregor's Body

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis begins with Gregor Samsa awakening in a completely different physical state: he is a bug.

The new look of Gregor Samsa
the bug

As he lies in bed reflecting on his existence, the reader learns that he ''worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which never come from the heart.'' ''To hell with it all!'' he thinks to himself.

Soon Gregor stops worrying about how the family will survive without his paycheck as he goes through a second transformation, now getting used to his new self:

''The small limbs had firm floor under them; they obeyed perfectly, as he noticed to his joy, and strove to carry him forward in the direction he wanted.''

Soon he is ''groping awkwardly with his feelers, which he now learned to value for the first time.'' Food now has changed for him as well: ''...the fresh food, by contrast, didn't taste good to him.''

He becomes fond of crawling across the ceiling and leaves ''sticky stuff'' behind him. From the window he can no longer see that awful hospital; with his insect eyes, everything has been reduced to gray. And Gregor now awakens at dusk when the night offers cover to the insect.

''...no one would come into Gregor any more until morning. Thus, he had a long time to think undisturbed about how he should reorganize his life from scratch.''

Gregor's transformation allows him to end his unfulfilling life as a salesman. In fact, his change is one that makes him insignificant. Gregor disappears. And when his own room changes beyond recognition, Gregor doesn't even mind.

Gregor's Room's Transformation

If your own brother turned into a large bug, what would you do for him? For the benefit of her older, buggy brother, Grete takes charge of things. Before his change, Gregor took care of her through his employment. Now she begins taking care of him, feeding and cleaning up after him. Her life goes through a transition from no responsibility to suddenly taking care of a very large bug. Sister Grete, as part of her new authority, decides to remove the furniture to give Gregor more room to crawl. The mother protests, thinking it will look like they are ''giving up all hope of an improvement'', but they are. Oddly, Gregor surprises even himself that the change pleases him:

''Was he really eager to let the warm room, comfortably furnished with pieces he had inherited, be turned into a cavern in which he would, of course, then be able to crawl about in all directions without disturbance, but at the same time with a quick and complete forgetting of his human past as well?''

And so gradually, the room becomes more of a bug's lair than a place of human habitation.

Gregor's Family's Transformation

Gregor's family members goes through their own individual transformations. His father, having lost his business five years before, no longer lies about the house in his pajamas; now, he wears a uniform and has a job in the bank and to Gregor's surprise, looks much better:

''...the glance of his black eyes was freshly penetrating and alert, his otherwise disheveled white hair was combed down into a carefully exact shining part.''

The mother, with her asthma, does not work and the housekeeper does the household chores. The younger sister Grete, like the other two, is no longer a passive character in the story:

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