Gregor's Obsession with Money Exposed in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis Essay

Gregor's Obsession with Money Exposed in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis Essay

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Gregor's Obsession with Money Exposed in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis


In his story The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka gives us the story of Gregor Samsa, a young man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into an insect-like creature. Gregor, however, remains strangely indifferent to his plight, in a manner that seems inhuman to most readers. This is not due to a lack of omniscience on the narrator's part that causes the indifference to go unmentioned, and neither is it due to inobservance on the part of Gregor to the point of not noticing that he has been changed into an insect. Rather, Gregor does not pay much attention to his new form as an insect because his life as a human lacked many ordinary human characteristics. In other words, Gregor was mentally not human even before his change in physical form.

Just after his metamorphosis, Gregor makes an important observation on his job as a traveling salesman:

"Oh God," he thought, "what a grueling job I've picked! Day in, day out - on the road. The upset of doing business is much worse than the actual business in the home office, and, besides, I've got the torture of traveling, worrying about changing trains, eating miserable food at all hours, constantly seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate. To the devil with it all!" (4)

Most "normal" people would claim that meaningful relationships constitute the core of the human experience. But Gregor's concerns seem much more mundane. He begins with complaining about the quotidian problems of his job and only in the end reaches that which is really important - and then he immediately goes on to continue thinking about his job. He is obsessed with work, "a tool of the boss, without brains...


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...c. But we could also interpret this sentence in the opposite light, to assert that Gregor is an animal by dint of his ability to feel. This is supported by Gregor's ruminations on his plan to send Grete to the Conservatory: "...and it was his secret plan that she who, unlike him, loved music and could play the violin movingly..." (27, italics added). Thus, Gregor as a human being could not derive pleasure from music, indicating that he lived in a deprived, insect-like emotional state.

As we have seen, Gregor's mental life was extremely limited even before his physical metamorphosis. Perhaps Kafka intended this story as a means of pointing out that many people in an increasingly capitalist society, like Gregor, become more and more obsessed with money and thus live a mechanical life, like an insect. Thus, they sequester themselves from the pleasures of the soul.

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