The novella The Metamorphosis was written by Franz Kafka in 1912. It tells the story of the tragedy of a salesman, Gregor Samsa, who turned into a gigantic insect, but still possessed a human mind. He and his family lived in a rented apartment, which was possible due only to Gregor’s efforts—his father went bankrupt and mostly sat at home reading newspapers, and his mother was in poor health. Gregor also had a sister named Greta, who was learning to play a violin, and he dreamed that someday, when he had covered his father’s debts, he could pay for her to study at a conservatoire.
The novel begins with the description of how Gregor Samsa awoke in his bed and discovered he had turned into a beetle. The author emphasizes the most horrible fact for Gregor is not becoming an insect, but how he had missed the train and being late for work (Kaftka 8). Events begin to heat up when his mother, and then other members of the household, start to knock on his door, thinking he is still asleep. Finally, Gregor’s boss pays him a visit. Astonished, Gregor cries out he is just a little ill and he still can catch the train at 8 AM—but no one seems to understand what he is saying. His boss says Gregor’s voice sounds like it belonged to an animal. At last, Gregor himself manages to open the door, and everybody could see the creature he had become.
An important element is how Kafka writes in a manner that excludes himself from the story. Stated succinctly, he is not emotional about his characters’ destiny. He only describes what happens, without giving any evaluation of it, or taking someone’s side.
After Gregor appears in a doorway, in his new form, everyone becomes shocked. The boss runs away, Gregor’s mother panics, and his father suddenly grabs a stick and drives his son back into the room, inflicting an injury on him.
After these stressful events, events begin to settle down, turning into a succession of monotonous days. Little by little, Gregor starts to become acquainted with his new situation. He learns how to crawl over walls and even becomes fond of hanging on his ceiling. But, at the same time, Kafka notices that, despite his new horrible form, Gregor is still human. He can understand others, and he spends plenty of time standing near the door and listening to what the members of his family are saying. He feels they are disgusted by his appearance, and are afraid to come into his room, except Greta, who brings him food and does some cleaning up.
One day, Greta thinks Gregor could use a bit more space to crawl, so she decides to rid his room of furniture. Both women gather their courage and go in. It is the first time the mother entered her son’s room after his transformation; she is scared and Gregor hides under the bed, watching his belongings being carried out. It hurts him to see how he is being deprived of a normal living place, and finally it damages him so much that he comes out of his refuge to defend the last object he has: a portrait of a woman, which is hanging on the wall. When his mother sees him, in his new likeness, she loses consciousness. At this moment, father returns home, and when Greta tells him that mother is unconscious and Gregor “has unleashed,” he flares up, grabs a vase with fruits and starts to throw apples in his son’s direction. When Gregor tries to escape, one of these apples wounds him, and gets stuck in his shell.
After this accident, Gregor’s health deteriorates even more, his sister quits cleaning up his room, and his family members, more and more, often call him “it.” They start to rent rooms to three men, and one day, they also see Gregor. After another scandal, Greta says they cannot live like this anymore, and everyone agrees with her. And a couple of days later, a housemaid finds Gregor’s dead body. “Come and look. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s lying there. It’s completely snuffed it!” the cleaning woman cried out (Kaftka 237).
With Gregor’s death, the surroundings start to appear fairly normal to other households, and they feel great relief. Kafka finishes his novel with a description of how the family sits in a tram, and animatedly discuss their plans for the future.
Kaftka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York. Opus Books, 2008. Print.
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