The Metamorphosis

in franz kafka’s “the metamorphosis”, kafka describes a son who suffers botha literal and symbolic transformation into a huge, repulsive, fatally wounded insect. through characterization, metaphors, and irony, kafka gives his story deep underlying meanings, yet writes so simply that it could very well be the point of view of a defenseless child.

gregor samsa, the main character of the novel, believes himself to be useless to society in general. kafka uses characterization, by transforming gregor into an insect one morning, to even further illustrate how low he feels himself to be. kafka uses gregor’s present external condition to demonstrate how poorly gregor feels about his family members, his work, and himself, and to make the feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and detachment strikingly evident.

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as a grotesque insect, gregor samsa serves as a metaphor for our society. although little was told of the life of mr. samsa before the metamorphosis, one can safely say that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the way he was treated by others. he worked diligently and devotedly, lived with his parents, and although his life was rather bland, there was nothing unusual about it or the way people treated him. after the transformation, however, his mother feared him, and his insensitive father despised him. they thought of him as a burden, not as a son, and began to consider him a despicable monster, and eventually to hate him. here, the poor gregor and his relations with his ineffectual parents demonstrates how we are perceived by others. kafka’s beetle shows that our society, past and present, focuses too much on our outside characteritics. whoever a person may be on the inside and however great and wonderful he may be is altered by his physical self. it shows the superficial nature of man and its prevalence over what is true and meaningful, as demonstrated by gregor’s death.

the life and fate of this insect, gregor, is very ironic as well. a family who brings a person up and cares for him should be able to overlook gregor’s hideousness. a loving family should remember that it is gregor under all of those shiny, black shells, and that he hasn’t really changed at all. the family proves to be very self centered, however, and resumes its “normal” functioning soon after gregor’s pitiable death. the father doesn’t feel attachment or remorse. with gregor out of the picture, herr samsa turns to his budding daughter as a source of the family’s future comfort, never thinking again of the poor gregor.

gregor samsa, perhaps one of the most tragic characters in literature, was made to face a terrible sentece of isolation, betrayal, and self doubt. kafka throws this poor man’s fate at us to show the phsychological relationships between children and parents and the individual and society.


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