The Metamorphosis contains several overarching themes, but only two are essential. The story begins after the major transformation has already occurred. On the other hand, Gregor, Grete, Gregor’s mother, and Gregor’s father go through their journeys in the novella. In this article, you’ll learn about how characters transformed and became alienated.
The most prominent theme in The Metamorphosis is alienation. One morning, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who goes the extra mile to support his family, is late for work. Overnight, he transforms into an insect and goes through physical alienation from his own body. Because of this transformation, he becomes estranged from his work, society, and family. Gregor loses his name and humanity in the novella’s third section.
Even so, the reader discovers that his life as a human was not significantly different. Gregor Samsa has a very disillusioned life even before this horrifying transformation. It is especially noticeable in the novella’s first lines. He awakens as an insect and is fixated on getting to work. Long before the transition, his work had dehumanized him.
The theme of isolation is gradually revealed in The Metamorphosis via Gregor’s thoughts and feelings. He spends most of his time as a human traveling for work and sleeping in strange hotel rooms. He has no friends and no romantic interests. He accepts enormous responsibility for providing for his entire family as well as repaying his father’s debts. When Gregor returns home, he spends the majority of his time locked in his room, a habit he developed while traveling. From the start, he is emotionally and physically estranged from his family.
Gregor’s sister Grete is the only person he has a strong bond with in the entire globe. However, his physical transformations, as well as her emotional change, separate him from her. Gregor loses his ability to speak, but he continues to think like a human. His family’s carelessness and arrogance deeply hurt him. Nobody speaks to him, indicating a lack of human connection in the family.
Quotes on Alienation
- “What a demanding profession I’ve chosen! Every day, I’m on the road. Doing business in this manner requires significantly more effort than doing business at home, and on top of that, there is the curse of travel, worries about missing train connections, bad and irregular food, and constant contact with new people, making it impossible to get to know or become friendly with them.” (Part I)
- “Gregor, on the other hand, had no intention of opening the door and instead congratulated himself on his prudent habit of locking all doors at night, even when he was at home, which he had picked up while traveling.” (Part I)
- “They’d grown accustomed to it, both Gregor and his family; they accepted the money gratefully, and he was glad to provide it, despite the lack of warm affection in return.” (Part II)
- “It has to go,” his sister yelled, “that’s the only way, Father.” You have to get rid of the notion that this is Gregor. By believing it for so long, we’ve only harmed ourselves. How is that possible, Gregor? If it had been Gregor, he would have realized a long time ago that humans can’t coexist with such an animal, and he would have left of his own free will. We wouldn’t have a brother anymore, but we could go on with our lives and remember him fondly. As it stands, this animal is persecuting us; it has evicted our tenants and clearly intends to take over the entire flat and force us to sleep on the streets. “Father, look, just look,” she screamed, “he’s restarting!” (Part III)
The theme of transformation in Metamorphosis connects all three chapters, including all the family members. Ultimately, the story can be summed up as one family’s transformation.
When Gregor Samsa awakens, the reader is left wondering why this transformation occurred in the first place. This is not a question posed by the characters. Gregor, for example, is more concerned with not being late for work. His family’s reaction is the same until they see him in his new form.
Surprisingly, Gregor is the character who undergoes the least amount of transformation. His physical transformation does not directly cause his mental transformation, which occurred long before his body transformed into an insect. That is why Gregor quickly accepts his Metamorphosis. In some ways, it frees him from all of his problems and heavy responsibilities. Nonetheless, he develops some insect habits and preferences, causing Gregor to face an insect vs. human dilemma.
Gregor does not lose his humanity throughout the story. The story is told through his eyes, allowing the reader to empathize with him. The reader witnesses the protagonist’s reflections on the events and his concerns about his relatives. However, because his family only sees his external form, they refer to him as “it.”
When Gregor’s family discovers that he has transformed into an insect, they must all adjust their way of life. They also alter their thoughts and feelings about Gregor. It is most visible in the case of Grete, Gregor’s adored sister.
Grete is a young girl who accepts the enormous responsibility of caring for Gregor. She is the only one who enters his room, feeds him, and tries to be friendly at first. She expresses sympathy for Gregor in how she speaks and refers to him. Despite her apparent dislike for the way Gregor appears, Grete assists him. Throughout the novella, she grows resentful of her brother and begins to regard him as a burden. It primarily occurs due to her failure to receive a response from Gregor. He is unable to communicate and spends most of his time hiding under the couch. His food preferences have also shifted (he enjoys rotten food). Grete finds it challenging to accept that it is still her brother. She takes pride in looking after him. However, as she begins to work, the reader discovers that this load becomes too heavy for her.
Another change that the reader notices is the one in the family structure. When the story begins, Gregor is the family’s sole provider. His parents and younger sister, he claims, are unable to work. It is no longer possible after the physical transformation. Gregor loses his humanity in his family’s eyes as his role shifts from caregiver to one who needs to be cared for. His father, on the other hand, regains his masculinity and authority. It is evident in how he looks, speaks, and dresses.
The changes in Gregor’s room are another way Kafka illustrates the transformation theme in The Metamorphosis. First and foremost, it is clean and furnished with his personal belongings. Gregor gradually develops insect habits, and his family realizes that his new condition may be permanent. Then Grete chose to move the furniture to make it easier for him to crawl. Gregor is initially pleased but becomes terrified when they attempt to remove it, particularly the portrait of a woman. His identity is split between being a human and feeling at ease as an insect. Later, when Grete sees him as a burden, the room becomes dusty and cluttered with unnecessary objects. Since Gregor is not allowed to leave, it becomes his prison cell.
The deeper meaning of Metamorphosis displayed throughout the room reflects the change in Gregor’s emotional state. He becomes depressed as his room is converted into storage. It means that the family no longer cares about Gregor’s needs.
All of the action takes place in Samsa’s apartment, which serves as their prison. Only after Gregor’s death will the family be able to break free. The parents and Grete restore sympathy and compassion for Gregor after the insect body is removed. His death, the final transformation, frees Gregor and his family by giving them a chance to move on with their lives.
Quotes About Transformation
- “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from a nightmare, he found himself transformed into a hideous vermin in his bed.” (Part I)
- “He had not pictured his father as he stood there now; lately, with his new habit of crawling around, he had avoided paying attention to what was going on in the rest of the flat as he had done previously.” (Part II)
- “Had he truly desired to turn his room into a cave, a warm room furnished with the nice furniture he had inherited? That would have allowed him to move around freely in any direction, but it would also have allowed him to forget his past when he was still human quickly.” (Part II)
- “After which, almost whispering, as if she didn’t want Gregor (whose whereabouts she didn’t know) to hear the tone of her voice indeed, as she was persuaded he didn’t understand her words, she added, “and by taking the furniture away, won’t it seem like we’ve given up all chance of improvement and we’re abandoning him to cope for himself?” I believe it is best to leave the room exactly as it was before so that when Gregor returns to us, he will find everything unchanged and will be able to forget the time in between much more easily.” (Part II)
- “He had been lowered to the situation of an antiquity invalid, and it took him long, long moments to crawl across his room – crawling over the ceiling was out of the question – but this worsening in his condition was more than compensated for (in his viewpoint) by the door to the living room being left open every evening. He developed the habit of closely watching it for one or two hours before it was opened, and then, lying in the darkness of his room where he couldn’t be seen from the living room, he could watch the family in the light of the dinner table and listen to their conversation – with everybody’s permission, in a way, and thus quite different than before.” (Part III)