Gregor's Guilt in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

Gregor's Guilt in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

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Gregor's Guilt in The Metamorphosis


Humans feel obligated to do certain things. It makes them feel good, or worthwhile. If these responsibilities are not met or to the obligator's own standards then guilt comes upon them. In The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, Gregor's self-condemnation keeps him trapped. Gregor is enslaved to his family. Therefore Gregor's guilt emerges from the families' burden.

The excerpt below is a key passage to understanding Gregor's guilt:

"'Believe me, sir, there's something the matter with him. Otherwise how would Gregor have missed a train? That boy has nothing in his mind but the business. It's almost begun to rile me that he never goes out nights. He's been back in the city for eight days now, but every night he's home. He sits there with us at the table, quietly reading the paper or studying timetables."(10)

Guilt can be from many different situations. Gregor's guilt was from his obligation to work. Even Gregor's mother, a bystander, could see his dedication to his job. Life without amusement becomes stressful and unpleasant. Throughout the novel Gregor finds himself stressed out because of his dissatisfaction with his ability to provide for his family. Gregor, finally near the end of the novel, finds satisfaction in something: his sister's violin.

The novel is set on Gregor being placed into the fatherly role. From there stems all the problems from the novel. One in particular comes up. Gregor does not go out at night. This is his recreational time, his time to relax and unwind. Instead Gregor stays working even when he is away from his job. Work without relaxation is dangerous. Even ancient texts talk about a day of rest.

Guilt is deadly. Gregor's guilt actually leads him to his death. The stress built up from his guilt was part of his death. Because of the stress and guilt Gregor did not eat much. He became malnourished. Many tragedies have been written on the guilt of a person. In the tragedy the guilt kills them.

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Gregor dies the same way he lived, caring for his family.

This passage has a lasting impression upon the whole novel. From his human state, to the metamorphosis to his death, Gregor has guilt about getting his family out of debt. He dreams of accomplishing much but is changed from the helpful to the helpless. In the end Gregor died an unnecessary death. If the guilt wouldn't have been there death wouldn't have came so soon.
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