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Eddie Victoria

ENGL 115

Professor Beadle

31 October 2018

An Uplifting Tragedy

Throughout Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s mentality regarding his

behavior and inner thoughts suffer a drastic change, mainly for the worse. When Gregor

transforms to be more bug-like and less human-like, he begins to feel more alienated from both

humanity and his own family. The audience should notice how he continuously loses human

qualities throughout the text, and receives neglect. It was not just Gregor that went through a

metamorphosis however; his mother, father, and Grete did as well. In fact, one could argue that

Grete went through more of a significant metamorphosis than Gregor despite his physical

changes. His mother and father also change, in fact, Gregor’s whole family experiences change,

all of which are more positive in comparison to Gregor’s changes.

Not only does Gregor begin to feel more bug-like physically, but he also transforms

mentally. He falls into a trance of discovering his new self and somewhat embraces it. The

majority of Gregor’s inner thoughts is him wanting to become more like an insect. For example,

Gregor “especially liked hanging from the ceiling . . . a faint swinging sensation went through

the body; and in the almost happy absent-mindedness which Gregor felt up there, it could happen

to his own surprise that he let go” (Kafka 41). Gregor can somewhat can enjoy his

transformation, which is harmful, because it would lead him astray and morph him in to a total

insect . He loses himself during such a simple occurrence of hanging there, which exposes how
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his mind becomes more simplistic and that he appeals to similar things that an insect would. The

level of happiness that Gregor feels in this instance is never brought to him by any of his family

members throughout the story, so perhaps Gregor is getting used to trying to find happiness with

his new transformation without the aid of other humans. His mentality changes from finding joy

in supporting his family, to finding joy in hanging off of a ceiling, which accurately

demonstrates how he has transformed mentally after his physical change. Another example of

Gregor’s newfound state of mind is displayed when the audience sees how he responds to

dilemmas. Gregor found himself “overwhelmed with self-reproach and worry, he began to creep

and crawl over everything” (Kafka 48). Gregor uses his bug-like qualities in an attempt to cope

with real-life issues, instead of using his human-like qualities. With his new way of thinking, he

believes that panicking and crawling around on his several legs will solve something; but all it

does is demonstrate to the audience how his transformed mind gradually overcomes him.

Gregor’s mentality has transformed alongside his body, and he unintentionally embraces his new

mind when finding joy and responding to stress.

Gregor begins to lose his humanity and human-like traits, which results in losing relations

with his family. His family begins to notice his loss of human mental attributes, and they begin

to neglect and lose sympathy for him. Gregor’s deprivation of human relationships deeply effects

how he lives and what he thinks about. It seems as if the longer Gregor is living as this vermin,

the more he will forget about his past as a human as well. The reader questions whether or not

Gregor “really [wanted] the warm room, so cozily appointed with heirlooms, transformed into a

lair, where he might, of course, be able to creep, unimpeded, in any direction, though forgetting

his human past swiftly and totally” (Kafka 44). Gregor ends up forgetting more about his human

side, and becomes more compelled to embrace the bug side of him. Kafka foreshadows Gregor
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taking pleasure in verminous actions, and straying away from humanity when he stated how

Gregor might “[forget] his human past.” The audience then sees Gregor receiving neglect and

annoyance from his family due to him losing humanity; as his father beats him, his sister ignores

him, and his mother is in fear of him. Gregor’s father and mother were once grateful for Gregor,

but now they expect him to care for the family and take him for granted. Gregor cannot care for

the family due to taking on the qualities of a bug, so his parents deem that he is not useful

anymore. Even when Gregor’s mother attempted to get closer to her son, she eventually “caught

sight of the enormous brown splotch on the flowered wallpaper, and, before she became truly

aware that what she was looking at was Gregor, screamed out in a high pitched raw voice ‘Oh

God, oh God’ and fell with outstretched arms” (Kafka 47). Upon discovering what Gregor really

is, Gregor’s mother is in such a significant state of revulsion that she finds it in herself to faint on

the floor. The mother cannot put effort into helping Gregor due completely to his physical

appearance, whereas the father is disappointed in Gregor for being unable to provide. Gregor’s

father pushes him away both physically and mentally by avoiding conversation with Gregor and

taking on the role as an uncaring alpha male, as well as harming him with projectiles. His once-

close sister, Grete, loses hope in Gregor and ends up viewing him as more of a bug than a

human. She fails to care for him both physically and mentally, yet has an unhealthy and

possessive attachment to him. This theme of physicality relating to mentality is constantly used

by Kafka to display the initial metaphor of Gregor becoming a vermin, and how it has affected

him. One can never become a vermin in real life, so the metaphor is comparing a Vermin to a

human who struggles with work, sociality, and relationships. According to Carl Rhodes and

Robert Westwood, “whole categories of people have been disparaged and disregarded as

faceless and undeserving of ethical attention; rendered, like Gregor, as verminous” (Rhodes
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and Westwood). The writers insinuate that regular humans who are “disparaged or

disregarded,” will be treated like vermin who do not deserve ethical attention, which confirms

the metaphoric relationship between vermin and man in The Metamorphosis. Overall, the

actions of Gregor’s family had finally alienated Gregor completely, and after enough neglect,

rejection, and loss of his humanity; he ends up dead and alone.

Gregor is not the only one who came out transformed, as his family and especially Grete

came out of the situation significantly transformed as well. Grete’s transformation has more of a

positive outlook, as opposed to Gregor’s tragic transformation. These positive transformations

for the rest of the Gregor’s family originate from the death of Gregor. It is the unfortunate truth

that “Gregor’s death leads to domestic blossoming” (Champlin). When Grete was freed from

toxically obsessing over Gregor, she came out of her cocoon and blossomed into a fine woman

looking for a spouse. Gregor had to die for this uplifting instance to occur, and his parents

benefit from his death as well. They came to the realization that they had more money and

Gregor was no longer holding them back. It was apparent that the “greatest improvement in their

situation at this moment, of course, had to come from a change of dwelling” (Kafka 77). His

parents decide to move in to a new apartment in a better area, which shows how their

transformation resulted in yet another positive outcome. Not only did Gregor’s money help the

Samsa family after his death, his absence also triggered the final act of his family’s

transformation, which consisted of growth into newer people living a more fulfilling life.

One could argue that Gregor’s transformation was overall beneficial due to physical

advantages and not needing to worry about old responsibilities such as working. Gregor did seem

to find happiness when he was crawling around like a bug, and amusement from hanging upside

down. He used his new abilities as a coping mechanism, and seemed to more easily confront his
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problems as a vermin. Not only did Gregor physically confront the problematic cleaning woman

(Kafka 59), he also found joy in crawling around his clutter in order to cope with his problems,

which he did not do as a human. It is possible that are more positives than negatives regarding

Gregor’s transformation, also due to him not having to work under the boss that he dislikes. He

does not need to wake early and provide anymore, but this is actually a downside to his

transformation. Gregor may have lost his job, but this does not mean he lost the pressure to still

work for his family. Gregor’s self-worth plummeted, and he stopped receiving an income, which

are two incredible downsides to his transformation. Gregor would also not need his physical

coping mechanisms if he did not go through the disastrous effects of the transformation, for the

metamorphosis caused more pain for Gregor than positivity. Gregor’s transformation was not

beneficial; it caused physical pain, emotional pain, and confinement.

Gregor is suffering throughout the entire novel, and never quite deals with his problems.

Instead of writing a cliché novel focusing on overcoming life’s difficulties, Kafka writes about

how one will be overcame by problems and will not recover from life’s difficulties; but others

will benefit from the experience. Gregor is overcome by his metamorphosis and is mentally

suffering from verminous thoughts, alienation, neglect, and loss of humanity. The insect-like

thoughts poison him in to acting like a bug instead of acting human, which is why he begins to

lose relationships with his family as well as receiving neglect. While the result of his

transformation is a tragedy, his family ends up gaining from the experience. Grete grows into a

stress-free woman who does not unhealthily obsess or worry about Gregor anymore, and

Gregor’s parents will settle down at a better location with a surprising amount of money. Grete

and her parents positively transform by growing and moving on from Gregor’s dire
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transformation; which caused his abandonment, lack of humanity, loss of relationships, and

eventually loss of his life.


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Work Cited

Champlin, Jeffrey. “Brother, Sister, Monster: Resonance and the Exposed Body in Antigone and

The Metamorphosis.” MLN, vol. 130 no. 5, 2015, pp. 1179-1197. Project MUSE,

doi:10.1353/mln.2015.0077

Kafka, Franz. “The Metamorphosis” edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. Franz

Kafka's The Metamorphosis. New York :Chelsea House Publishers, 1988. Print.

Rhodes, C. & Westwood, R. J Bus Ethics (2016) 133: 235. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551 -

014-2350-1