Franz Kafka, in his novel, The Metamorphosis describes the literal and metaphorical metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa, from a human to a hideous insect-like creature, but underneath the literal lies the more significant metamorphosis of the Samsa Family.
In the novella, Gregor Samsa, the sole breadwinner and only son, transforms into a hideous creature. He is locked inside his room, and his only sister Grete takes care of him, while his father wants to get rid of him. Ultimately, the family come to the consensus that the creature is no longer Gregor, and decide to get rid of it.
The literal metamorphosis of Gregor catalyzes the growth and development of Grete, from a meek little girl, to a decisive, mature, young woman. Although Grete’s change is the most significant, Mr. Samsa also undergoes a metamorphosis of his own, transforming from a dependent, broken shell of a man, to an independent, responsible man, with a sense of purpose and meaning. In the novella, The Metamorphosis, Kafka explores how traumatic incidents catalyze a positive transformation amongst the Samsa family. Kafka ultimately points to the hope and perseverance of humanity, regardless of the circumstances faced. The traumatic metamorphosis of Gregor triggered a transformation in Grete, from being a passive, and dependent girl, to a mature, authoritative, and responsible young woman. As Gregor’s metamorphosis progresses and he becomes more insect-like, the Samsa family become disgusted and appalled at his appearance, and the lack of his ability to contribute to the household. This sentiment grows until Grete becomes the only person who the metamorphosed Gregor has any communication and connection with.
She starts to exercise her authority by: acting as a special expert with respect to their parents” (Kafka 44), with no consideration of his needs and desires regarding his confined environment and emotional well-being, illustrated through Grete’s decision SS1 to re-arrange Gregor’s room: They were clearing his room out; taking away everything he loved; the chest in which he had kept his fretsaw and other tools was dragged off; they were now loosening theSS2 writing desk which had almost sunk into the floor, the desk he had done all his homework when he was at the commercial academy, at the grammar school before that” (46) and how “Grete did not let herself be dissuaded from her mother” (45). Though Grete proclaims that she is acting for the brother’s behalf, she ends up separating Gregor from the few remaining physical attachments. These objects are a symbol and a reminder of his past and their absence furthers his detachment from the Samsa family. Through the metamorphosis, Gregor’s needs and abilities transitions form human to insect, the Samsa family’s actions forces him to adapt and change to his new physical form, without consideration for his resistance to detach from his human past, and his hope of returning to it. Through this Kafka depicts Grete’s transition and development from a young sister who cares for her brother and his preferences, to one that doesn’tSS3 . Through her role of an authoritative, mature, and considerate decision maker, in respect to Gregor’s needs, she displays maturity, and is completely independent in that matter.
Through the portrayal of Grete’s role, the author seems to suggest that Grete undergoes a metamorphosis of her own, that is parallel to her brother’s. As Gregor’s physical and emotional state transform, Grete also has a respective transformation; she gains her independence and maturity. This progression in Grete’s role points to the positive caused by Gregor’s metamorphosis, the symbolic golden lining behind a storm cloud, that although the events that take place are tragic, it does lead to a development in Grete’s personality. At face value, after reading this novella, it may seem to depict the situation and the human condition as one of despair and isolation. but by focusing on the role of Grete, it is evident that Kafka could also be depicting the human condition as one of hope and rebirth.
Although Grete’s love for her metamorphosed brother is well meaning, and genuine, it cannot survive the disparity cause by the metamorphosis, nor her personal transformation and the emergence from adolescence to adulthood. Although she honors the memory of her brother, Grete understands that “things can’t go on like this” (67). She stops cleaning his room and providing him food. Her detachment is evident when she refers to Gregor as it. Grete has reached the level of maturity where she can conclude that “the family must try to get rid of it, and that Gregor must go” (68) and that “if this were Gregor, he would have realized long age that communal life among human beings is not possible with such an animal and Gregor would have gone away voluntarily” (69). Through this statement, and her referral of Gregor as it, she has reached full maturity, as she is capable of detaching the memory of her brother from the metamorphosed creature, and make a logical and pragmatic decision to get rid of it. Through the significant transformation of Grete, Kafka demonstrates how traumatic and challenging events force one to become more mature, more responsible and make decisions where reason and the greater good must be weighed more than emotional attachment.
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