and Health, Family
and the Family, Individuality,
||First published in 1915, this is the story of Gregor Samsa, a
young traveling salesman who lives with and financially supports his
parents and younger sister. One morning he wakes up to discover that
during the night he has been transformed into a "monstrous vermin"
or insect. At first he is preoccupied with practical, everyday
concerns: How to get out of bed and walk with his numerous legs? Can
he still make it to the office on time?
Soon his abilities, tastes, and interests begin to change. No one
can understand his insect-speech. He likes to scurry under the
furniture and eat rotten scraps of food. Gregor's family, horrified
that Gregor has become an enormous insect, keep him in his bedroom
and refuse to interact with him. Only his sister Grete demonstrates
concern by bringing his food each day.
When Gregor breaks out one day and scurries into the living room,
his father throws apples to chase him away. One becomes embedded in
his back. Eventually the apple becomes rotten and infected; Gregor
wastes away. When he dies the cleaning woman throws his remains into
||Gregor's predicament is much like that of any person suffering
from severe, particularly disfiguring, chronic illness or
disability. Gregor's life story and personal identity change
dramatically when he becomes a vermin. In the new identity his
senses are different: the hospital across the street is now beyond
Gregor's range of vision. His abilities change. Shifts in spatial
arrangements circumscribe Gregor's movements. His voice is
transformed. Some of Gregor's changes are generated from within;
some are conditioned by the world's reaction to his metamorphosis.
Other metamorphoses also occur in the story. Gregor's family see
his predicament as an affront to them (after all, they expect Gregor
to support the family). They withdraw from him, try to contain the
damage, but in the process begin to change their own life stories as
well--Gregor's father, who had been disabled, mobilizes and goes
back to work; he changes from being an "old man" to a bank official
"holding himself very erect." Gregor's sister also gets a job and
seems on the verge of a new life.
"The Metamorphosis" can also be seen as a reaction against
bourgeois society and its demands. Gregor's manifest physical
separation may represent his alienation and inarticulate yearnings.
He had been a "vermin," crushed and circumscribed by authority and
routine. He had been imprisoned by social and economic demands:
"Just don't stay in bed being useless . . . . "
In a psychoanalytic interpretation, The Metamorphosis prevents
the imminent rebellion of the son against the father. Gregor had
become strong as a result of his father's failure. He crippled his
father's self-esteem and took over the father's position in the
family. After the catastrophe, the same sequence takes place in
reverse: son becomes weak, and father kills him.
||Bantam (New York)|
||First published: 1915. Translated by Stanley Corngold.
|Date of Entry