“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed.”
The opening line more or less sums up this short story from Franz Kafka; bizarre. I spent my entire first reading of ‘Metamorphosis’ trying to find the meaning of it all. What is the significance of turning into an insect? Why is he a giant cockroach, rather than a regular sized one? What does this all allude to or represent? I will try to unravel the mystery of this short story in my review.
Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to find that he has turned into a gigantic insect. He tries to roll out of bed but realises that his new body will not allow him to do this. He reflects on how miserable his life is as a travelling salesman and how he would quit if only his parents and sister did not rely on him for money. He looks at the clock and is worried as he is late for work.
His mother calls him him and he tries to reply, but his voice is nothing more than an insect screech. On the other side of his bedroom door his manager tells Gregor that he is not happy that Gregor is late to work, and that he needs to work harder. Gregor tries to protest but the manager can not understand him. Gregor opens the door to talk to the manager but upon seeing this giant gross insect the manager runs away. Gregor’s dad shoos Gregor back into his room with a newspaper, and is seemingly unphased by Gregor turning into a cockroach.
Gregor spends his life living under a sofa. His sister, Grete, feeds him rotting food which he happily eats as a cockroach. He listens in to his family discussing how bad their financial situation is now that Gregor is a cockroach and can not provide for them, and he feels guilty.
Gregor’s mother sees him for the first time climbing the walls and passes out. Gregor’s dad returns home from his new job and mistakes Gregor for attacking his mother and throws an apple at him. Gregor scatters back into his bedroom.
Gregor’s family slowly falls into poverty. They have to fire their maid and hire a cheap cleaning lady. They take on three boarders in order to have some extra income. However, one day the boarders spot Gregor and are disgusted. They move out because of the poor conditions of the house. Grete tells her father that they have to get rid of Gregor or they will continue to lose money. Gregor’s father agrees and said he wishes that Gregor could understand them and move out of his own accord. Gregor does understand, and decides to die as it would be the best thing for his family.
When Gregor’s family finds his body they feel relieved. The cleaning lady throws him out. The family manage to gain some money and Gregor’s parents try to find Grete a husband.
“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”
“You are at once the quiet and the confusion in my heart.”
“I can love only what I can place so high above me that I can not reach it.”
“I usually solve my problems by letting them devour me.”
Have you ever heard of the term ‘Kafkaesque’? Kafka’s writing had such a strong theme and style that a new term was developed for it. Kafkaesque describes an overly complicated and frustrating experiences. Kafka used to be an insurance broker, and the complex excessive administration and bureaucracy involved inspired his most famous works such as ‘The Trial’ (leave a comment below if you would like a review of that) and ‘Metamorphosis’. ‘Metamorphosis’ can be considered a Greek myth, but for the modern industrious age. When Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself an insect rather than a human, he is more concerned about being late for work than his life-changing transformation. Gregor spent his entire life working hard for his family to provide for them, with little thanks. So, when Gregor becomes unable to work due to his condition, thy turn on him. They do not provide for him the way he provided for them, and eventually try to get rid of him. Working hard with little thanks and love made him less and less human, until he was little more than a small bug to both his boss and his family. It is possible that Gregor’s transformation could be a metaphor. He did not turn into a bug, rather he had been s**t on his entire life made him suddenly mentally unable to work. Suddenly he cannot get out of bed, he cannot communicate and he cannot work. Without being able to work he is useless to his boss and his family, and so they value him better dead than alive.
Thank you for reading this review! I hope it cleared up this absurd book for you. If you would like me to review ‘The Trial’ (or any other book) please let me know in the comments below.
Love from Evie x