During the course of Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis, we see in Gregor Samsa a man who fears the concept of intimacy—most notably with members of the opposite sex. It is important for us to contrast the commonly accepted definition of intimacy against that of Gregor’s. The popular definition deals with the mark of a close association between two parties, may it consist of a physical or emotional connection. Gregor’s definition seems to be a polar opposite to the conventional one; or more simply, he feels the closest connection to the women he can maintain a sizable distance from. We come to a better understanding of Gregor’s definition of intimacy when scrutinizing his relationship with his sister: he feels most intimate with her, although she feels utterly alienated from him. Ironically enough, Gregor tends to long for the women that he is least capable of approaching or coming in contact with, including his mother. The passage in which Gregor’s mother and sister attempt to remove all of the furniture from his room helps to illustrate his fear of intimacy. He immediately clings onto a picture frame of an ornately adorned fashion model, refuses to loosen his grasp, and claims to feel at greatest ease in this position. The irony is that the intimacy established with the model in the picture frame is the furthest thing from a genuine connection or association between man and woman. Therefore, the picture frame is a metaphor of Gregor’s inability to establish conventional intimacy with members of the opposite sex due to his own perception of what intimacy actually means.
Before we proceed in examining the meaning of the pi...
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...the deeper layer of his own perception, rather than allowing any of our personal biases to lead us astray through the novella. Gregor was never capable of adhering to our conventional definition of intimacy, as we witnessed in Grete’s hostile reaction to him. And once again, Gregor appears to be at greatest ease with his mother when he is least intimate with her, or rather, farthest away from her. Therefore, our “pretty gilt frame” functions as a metaphor for Gregor’s relationships with women—most notably his mother and sister. For Gregor to feel any sense of ease or comfort, it is necessary for him to place the proper barriers to shield him from the most important women in his life.
Kafka, Franz. “The Metamorphosis,” in The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir (New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1948).
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