The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis

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Metamorphosis means a change from one thing to another. Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" deals several changes, Gregor's transformation into a giant bug being the most dramatic. His transformation is also the catalyst for change to happen around him. His family experiences changes in their mindset and lifestyle, greatly altering their situation by the end of the story. Although they are supporting characters to Gregor, the fact that the story does not end when Gregor dies suggests that it is about his family as much as him. Of the Samsa family, Gregor's sister Grete undergoes the greatest change in thoughts and behaviour.

Grete begins as a "useless daughter"(431). She is seventeen years old and her life is made up of "dressing herself nicely, sleeping long, helping with housework, going out to modest entertainments and above all playing the violin."(418) She does not work or have any particular plans for the future. She wants to go to the Conservatorium and study violin, but this is "merely a beautiful dream"(417) . Gregor plans to pay for her to attend, but she has made no attempt to get there herself.

As well as taking no responsibility for her life, Grete behaves childishly at the beginning of the story. When it is discovered that Gregor has not left for work, she whispers to him through the door, trying not to anger her father and to integrate herself with Gregor so that he will tell her what is wrong. Gregor says that they have always been "intimate,"(417) and Grete seems to be very scared for her big brother being sick or loosing his job. She already seems to take care of him a bit, asking "aren't you well? Are you needing anything?"(404)

Grete's roll as a caretaker expands quickly when Gregor's condition is discovered. Since their parents wont go near Gregor even to care for him, this is her first real responsibility. Her caring nature is demonstrated to be childishly obsessive when she tries to discover what food he likes. She carefully prepares many different types of food such as "a dry roll of bread, a buttered roll and a roll both buttered and salted."(415) she is doing her best but Gregor acknowledges that she may have taken on his care "out of childish thoughtlessness."(419)

Grete's care of Gregor quickly becomes less focused on his welfare and more focused on her own status.

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This is the first demonstration that her behavior is changing and she is growing up. She now "considers herself as expert on Gregor's affairs"(421) This is demonstrated as she goes against her mothers opinion about the furniture in Gregor's room. She insists on moving it all out to give him more room to move. This comes from the "self confidence she had recently developed"(421) as well as genuinely noticing his need for space. Although she still has some concern for him, she takes a drama queen stance "exaggerating the horror of her brother's circumstances in order that she might do all the more for him"(421)

Once Grete takes a job, she becomes more self centered, no longer bothering to take special care of Gregor. She "hurriedly push[es] into the room with her foot any food that [is] available"(427) and sweeps it out again with the broom "headless of whether it had been... left untouched." (427) She also stops cleaning his room thoroughly "make[ing] up her mind to leave it."(427) When her mother cleans Gregor's room Grete throws a tantrum, "jealously guard[ing] her claim to be the sole caretaker of Gregor's room" (427) with a "touchiness that [is] new to her"(427) The fact that Grete takes a job as a sales girl shows that she has developed a sense of responsibility for herself and her family. She "learn[s] shorthand and French...on the chance of bettering herself."(425) At the beginning of the story she did not even have a clear idea of what she wanted in the world, never mind actively doing something to achieve her goal.

Although she has become more aware of the realities of the world, such as working for a living, Grete's attitude towards Gregor does not change until he interrupts her playing the violin and the lodgers listening to her. The two things she cares about most are the new life her family is building without Gregor's support, and her violin music. She bursts out that they "must get rid of it,"(432) no longer acknowledging the bug as her brother. This marks a complete change in her attitude towards Gregor, caused by her changing priorities. She no longer loves her big brother and worries for his well being as she did in the beginning. When Gregor is driven into his room after interrupting Grete playing the violin, Gregor describes her as "show[ing] hate"(433) when she locks him in.

Grete goes from a dependant and carefree child who adores her big brother to a purposeful young woman who wont let anything stand in her way. Gregor's inability to provide for the family facilitates this change forced Grete to get a life.
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