The Metamorphosis EssayKafka wrote “The Metamorphosis” in 1912, taking three weeks to composethe story. While he had expressed earlier satisfaction with the work, he laterfound it to be flawed, even calling the ending “unreadable. ” But whatever hisown opinion may have been, the short story has become one of the most popularlyread and analyzed works of twentieth-century literature. Isolation andalienation are at the heart of this surreal story of a man transformed overnightinto a kind of beetle.
In contrast to much of Kafka’s fiction, “TheMetamorphosis” has not a sense of incompleteness. It is formally structuredinto three Roman-numbered parts, with each section having its own climax. Anumber of themes run through the story, but at the center are the familialrelationships fundamentally affected by the great change in the story’sprotagonist, Gregor Samsa (Lawson 27). While the father-son relationship in the story appears to be a centraltheme, the relationship between Gregor and his sister Grete is perhaps the mostunique. It is Grete, after all, with whom the metamorphosed Gregor has anyrapport, suggesting the Kafka intended to lend at least some significance totheir relationship. Grete’s significance is found in her changing relationshipwith her brother.Order now
It is Grete’s changing actions, feelings, and speech towardher brother, coupled with her accession to womanhood, that seem to parallelGregor’s own metamorphosis. This change represents her metamorphosis formadolescence into adulthood but at the same time it marks the final demise ofGregor. Thus a certain symmetry is to be found in “The Metamorphosis”: whileGregor falls in the midst of despair, Grete ascends to a self-sufficient, sexualwoman. It is Grete who initially tries conscientiously to do whatever she canfor Gregor. She attempts to find out what he eats, to make him feel comfortable,and to anticipate his desires. Grete, in an act of goodwill and love towardGregor, “brought him a wide assortment of things, all spread out on oldnewspaper: old, half-rotten vegetables; bones left over from the evening meal,caked with congealed white sauce; some raisins and almonds; a piece of cheese,which two days before Gregor had declared inedible; a plain slice of bread, aslice of bread and butter, and one with butter and salt” (p.
24). Besides beingthe only member of the family still willing to face Gregor daily, she is alsothe family representative of Gregor, in a sense, to a mother who doesn’tunderstand and a father who is hostile and opposing. The father is physicallyviolent toward his metamorphosed Gregor, pushing him through a door in Part I:”. .
. when from behind his father gave him a strong push which was literally adeliverance and he flew far into the room, bleeding freely” (p. 20). Greteappears to concentrate on protecting Gregor from this antagonistic father and anindecisive mother.
In Part II, when Grete leads her mother into Gregor’s roomfor the first time, we see the strange way in which Grete has become both theexpert and the caretaker of Gregor’s affairs (Nabokov 271). She convinces hermother that it is best to remove all of the furniture from his room. Kafkaattributes her actions partly to an adolescent zest: “Another factor which mighthave been also the enthusiastic temperament of an adolescent girl, which seeksto indulge itself on every opportunity and which now tempted Grete to exaggeratethe horror of her brother’s circumstances in order that she might do all themore for him” (p. 34).
The change in Grete’s attitudes and actions toward Gregor probably fullybegin in Part II, during the scene where Gregor struggles over to the window andleans against the panes to look outside. Grete, seemingly beginning to forgetthe Gregor still has human feelings and sensitivities, rudely opens the windowand voices her disgust at the distasteful odor of his den. Moreover, shedoesn’t bother to hide her feelings when she sees him. One day, about a monthafter Gregor’s metamorphosis, “when there was surely no reason for her to bestill startled at his appearance, she came a little earlier than usual and foundhim gazing out of the window. . .
she jumped back as if in alarm and banged thedoor shut; a stranger might well have thought he had been lying in wait for herthere meaning to bite her” (p. 30). Against her mounting insensitivity isGregor’s poignant selflessness (Nabokov 270). In a marvelous display of feelingand compassion for his sister and her feelings, he expends four hours of laborto .