The Metamorphosis

by: Franz Kafka

Motifs

Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis depicts multiple transformations, with the most significant and obvious example being Gregor’s metamorphosis into an insect. Though Gregor’s physical change is complete when the story begins, he also undergoes a related change, a psychological transformation as he adapts to his new body. Grete experiences her own transformation in the story as she develops from a child into an adult. (In fact, in zoology the word metamorphosis refers to a stage in insect and amphibian development during which an immature form of the animal undergoes a physical transformation to become an adult.) At the beginning of the work, she is essentially still a girl, but as she begins to take on adult duties, such as caring for Gregor and then getting a job to help support her family, she steadily matures. In the story’s closing scene, her parents realize she has grown into a pretty young woman and think of finding her a husband. The scene signals that she is now an adult emotionally and also physically, as it describes the change her body has undergone and echoes Gregor’s own physical change.

The family as a whole also undergoes a metamorphosis as well. Initially, the members of the Samsa family appear hopeless and static, owing to the difficulties resulting from Gregor’s transformation as well as their financial predicament. But over time they are able to overcome their money problems, and when Gregor finally dies and the family no longer has to deal with his presence, all the family members are reinvigorated. As the story closes, they have completed an emotional transformation and their hope is revitalized.

Sleep and Rest

References to sleep and rest, as well as the lack of sleep and rest, recur throughout The Metamorphosis. The story opens, for instance, with Gregor waking from sleep to discover his transformation, and Part 2 of the story begins with Gregor waking a second time, in this instance late in the day after the incident in which his father drove him back into his room. He quickly crawls under the sofa in his room to rest, and he spends a great deal of the story beneath the sofa either resting quietly or anxious and unable to rest. Moreover, Gregor describes how his father used to while away the day in bed or dozing in his armchair, and after the father resumes working, he often refuses to go to bed in the evenings and instead falls asleep in uniform in his chair. Toward the end of the work, as Gregor’s health declines he stops sleeping almost entirely until finally he dies.

Money

Because of the failure of the father’s business and the debts that resulted, money is a chief concern for the Samsa family, and consequently it appears as a frequent topic in Gregor’s thoughts and in the conversations of the family members. Gregor’s chief concern after discovering he’s become an insect is that he’ll lose his job, which we quickly learn he took solely as a means of earning money for his family. The office manager also implies while checking on Gregor that Gregor’s boss suspects him of stealing money from the firm. Then, shortly after Gregor awakes at the beginning of Part 2, he overhears the father explaining the family’s financial situation in detail to the mother and Grete. Later, the father and Grete both take jobs to make up for the loss of Gregor’s income, and the family even takes in a few borders as a means of bringing in extra money, which results in an argument about money after the borders discover Gregor.