Changing Familial Structure in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis
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In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, change is rampant throughout the novel. The social, emotional and physical changes affect all the characters. After his transformation, Gregor’s attitude towards his family shifts from adoration and sacrifice to the acknowledgement that his family no longer cares for him. The Samsa’s blatant dislike of Gregor’s new physical condition is met with feelings of guilt and a need to be loved. He becomes a creature of great disappointment and sullenness, not helped by his parents’ obvious resentment towards him.
Although he is a bug, Gregor continues to maintain his guardian-like position over the family. Gregor, although his family refuses to directly associate with him, focuses his entire existence on them. As he lies in his room, he “could see the whole family sitting at the table . . . and could listen to their conversation” (Kafka 38). Gregor watches and presides over his family and still attempts to remain a member of his family despite their attempts to ignore his existence. “Everyday around dusk, the living-room door- which he was in the habit of watching closely was opened” (Kafka 38). This exemplifies the Samsa’s attempts at keeping him a member of the family, but disallowing him to fully interact with them. Gregor’s deplorable and dismal existence leaves him little responsibilities with which to preoccupy him. He spends his new-found free time focusing on his family’s affairs. He is confined to his room and his only outlet to the world is his bedroom door. He “[watches] it closely for an hour or two” (Kafka 38) before it’s opened every evening. Even though Gregor is allotted to come in contact with the outside world only a few times per day, his family captivates his attention all the ti...
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...o care for them.
The Samsas are a family that pride themselves on appearances. Gregor no longer fits into their plans, so they treated him with as much disdain as possible. Kafka presents this through symbolic meaning, personal reflections, role reversals within the family, and Gregor’s maintaining of the guardian position in the family. Gregor continues to try to involve himself in his family’s affairs, but is unsuccessful. His physical ailments symbolize the problems in his life and relationships with his family. His relationships suffer mainly due to the change in family dynamic and responsibility. Gregor’s death is symbolic of the end of his family’s patience in dealing with him, as well as his final understanding that the family he thought loved him, actually does not.