The Metamorphosis

by: Franz Kafka

Themes

Alienation

Perhaps the greatest consequence of Gregor’s metamorphosis is the psychological distance it creates between Gregor and those around him. Gregor’s change makes him literally and emotionally separate from his family members—indeed, from humanity in general—and he even refers to it as his “imprisonment.” After his transformation he stays almost exclusively in his room with his door closed and has almost no contact with other people. At most, Grete spends a few minutes in the room with him, and during this time Gregor always hides under the couch and has no interaction with her. Furthermore, he is unable to speak, and consequently he has no way of communicating with other people. Lastly, Gregor’s metamorphosis literally separates him from the human race as it makes him no longer human. Essentially he has become totally isolated from everyone around him, including those people he cares for like Grete and his mother.

But as we learn over the course of the story, this feeling of estrangement actually preceded his transformation. Shortly after waking and discovering that he has become a bug, for example, Gregor reflects on his life as a traveling salesman, noting how superficial and transitory his relationships have become as a result of his constant traveling. Later, Gregor recalls how his initial pride at being able to support his family faded once his parents began to expect that support, and how he felt emotionally distant from them as a result. There is also no mention in the story of any close friends or intimate relationships outside his family. In fact, the alienation caused by Gregor’s metamorphosis can be viewed as an extension of the alienation he already felt as a person.