Gregor undergoes many changes in the story, “The Metamorphosis” but his family also underwent many changes also. One of the saddest things in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is that Gregor really cares about his family. Even though from the beginning of the story, he is the one who outwardly changes, his family also becomes very different. A metamorphosis is a change that takes place and every family member in this story changed in some way. Gregor’s job as a traveling salesman led to his alienation as well as his feeling that he had to support his family.
This is observed by the fact that he is always thinking of his family, even when his physical being has changed and causes him discomfort. Mr. Samsa, Mrs. Samsa, and Grete on the other hand, change because they become independent from Gregor, learn to rely on each other and their own abilities.
Grete Samsa, too, was alienated from the society in which she lives because she must care for a brother that society would ban as an outcast.
The signs of her metamorphosis appear when she is shown as a very caring person in the beginning. As time goes by she grows tired of helping her brother. He becomes a burden, and in the end she is the one who says they must be rid of him. After his metamorphosis, she must get a job in order to have a place to live, and enough food to eat. She becomes a more responsible person and also a more uncaring one towards Gregor. An irony about this is that it appears she may become what Gregor was to the family, the supporter.
Gregor’s father is a harsh person. He tries to seem like an unhealthy man, but he is very much a healthy man. The father is divided from society because he does not work and support his family as is expected of the father in a family. He expects his son to take care of the family. He does not wish to have anything to do with his son, even before the transformation. When his father finds him loose in the house Gregor says, “But really, really, was that still his father?” (Kafka 447). There was no closeness before his transformation and afterwards it was worse. In the end, the father has to get a job to help support the family, further alienating Gregor. He feels let down by his son.
The mother is a weak person at the beginning of the story. She has asthma, and can barely do any housework. She seems to care about her son at first, but later it is more need for him to work and take care of the family. She helps Grete move the furniture from Gregor’s room because she thinks he will be happier, but she cannot stand to look at him. By the end of the story she too has undergone a metamorphosis, because now she is able to sew for a store and do things for herself instead of relying on Gregor to take care of her.
Peter F.Neumeyer states, “The shock value of “The Metamorphosis” contributes to the family members’ changes, but the idea of shocking the reader is nothing new. The first sentence in the story is intended to shock. When one envisions the fact that a person has just turned into an insect over night, for no apparent reason, this does have some shock value in itself. Considering that Kafka died in a sanatorium leads one to believe from reading his novella that he had issues just as Gregor had issues with relationship to other people. In fact, Kafka’s characters parallel characters from stories written by other authors.” (Neumeyer 631).
Nina Peliken Straus’ analysis of Kafka’s work is mainly revealing the feminist view of
“The Metamorphosis”. She says until 1980 gender based theories were not discussed in literary
circles. Throughout the story the characters experiences are that of European, urban, twentieth
century masculine attitudes. Gregor is the bread winner for his family; his mother and sister are
the care-takers for the family. As the story goes along these roles are rebelled against because by
the end of the story everyone in the household is working, not just Gregor. The father-son
conflict or Oedipus complex is revealed when Gregor’s father throws apples and hits him. This
eventually causes his death. There is an exchange of daughter for son in the end as Grete has
bloomed into a pretty girl.
A statement made by Mark Spilka is, “Kafka’s greatest works were built on the ideas of other authors. The story “David Copperfield” is believed to be a background story for “The Metamorphosis”. Both are worried that they will lose their jobs. In both stories the main characters awaken from troubled dreams to find an illness has transformed them. As Spilka points out, “The Metamorphosis” relates to the humanity and these stories produce a special fiction. Furthermore, the scenery prepares readers for the changes the family members will undergo. The scenery is similar, a small bedroom that is messy, a pretty woman, and bad weather. In “The Metamorphosis”, the days are dreary until the end when the sun comes out. This implies that their lives were very dull until Gregor was no longer around. It is the urban, dreamlike element within a realistic story that draws readers to become enveloped in the events.” (Spilka 289).
Every person in the Samsa family went through a metamorphosis by the time the story comes to a close. The family, including Gregor is very close in the beginning of the story, but as time went by, and each has to get a job, the family becomes more and more isolated from each other. For this, Gregor feels he was the reason. “Admittedly, these were not now the lively conversations of earlier times, which Gregor had once called to mind with some avidity as he lay down exhausted in the damp sheets of some poky hotel room.” (Kafka 478). “The father now feels that he has control of the family again as head of the household. This is realized by ‘”Then he called: “Well now, come over here. Leave that old business. And pay a little attention to me.” The women came straightaway, caressed him, and finished their letters.”” (Kafka 488). The mother now has more confidence in herself because she can once again sew and bring in money to the family also. Grete now knows she is able to take care of herself, even when she no longer is living with her mother and father. Their independence is seen in this selection, “His father fell asleep in his armchair not long after supper was over; his mother, sitting well forward under the lamp, sewed fine linen for some haberdashery, his sister, who had taken a job as salesgirl, studied stenography and French in the evenings, in the hope of perhaps one day getting a better job.” (Kafka 478). Although, the family now can move to a smaller house, because they do not have the burden of Gregor on them, they should still have felt some pain of conscience, which they do not. The mother, the father, Grete leave the apartment after Gregor dies and go on a train ride, something they had not been able to do since before Gregor’s transformation. The conversation between the mother and the father would imply that now Grete could take Gregor’s place in supporting the family once she married because she too has gone through a metamorphosis, and is now a beautiful woman. She will support the family herself by working or she will help the family through marriage (Straus 657-658).
Throughout the entire story it is very apparent that every person is undergoing a metamorphosis of their own. Just as a caterpillar awakens to find it has changed in to a beautiful butterfly, so each person in their own way, changed into something other than what he or she was in the beginning.