In The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman wakes up from a dream and notices that he had transformed into a monstrous cockroach. Despite being a huge bug, he wasn’t shocked about his transformation. He just wanted to get up and get to work.
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Prior to his transformation, Gregor took on all the responsibilities of being the bread maker and watching over his family. Now that he isn’t a human anymore he fears that all the peace and contentment he managed to create will all turn into chaos. Gregor’s change in the physical and mental state are not the only forms of metamorphosis that occur. His transformation causes the role of authority in his family to shift as they adapt to his new form.
Gregor understands that he has an obligation to take care of his family, but he hates every moment of it. If I didn’t have to exercise restraint for the sake of my parents, then I would have quit a long time ago; I would have gone up to the director and told him exactly what I thought of him (Kafka, 1205). Gregor has thought about the day he could get his life back together and no longer have to work for an overbearing boss. He allows himself to stay in a miserable job for the sake of his parents and sister. He understands that at this point in his life he had no right to take authority because he was not in a position to take it. He allows himself to be ordered around so he can earn enough money to finally part ways, but not before doing right by his family.
When Gregor is late for work, the director sends the chief clerk to his house. The chief clerk provides a possible reason for him not showing up to work that day, which has to do with Gregor’s recent position to collect payments. The chief clerk’s belittling does not anger or affect Gregor’s attitude about his work ethic. Instead, he defends himself and tries to prove he is still worthy of working at the company. Gregor still thought he still had a chance to redeem himself even in his new form because he could not deal with the idea of missing a day from work.
Grete (Gregor’s sister) is worried about Gregor and his well-being. She leaves food for him, while taking into consideration his new appetite. She even moves furniture around in his room, so that he could be more comfortable and move around freely. Grete is the only one who can face Gregor after his transformation. This gives her new responsibilities as a caretaker. Her parents started to respect her as she took on more responsibilities and they saw her as a matured-young woman towards the end of the story. As time went on, Grete starts to neglect Gregor and eventually becomes annoyed by his presence. She starts to see him as a threat and one that must be dealt with immediately. Her newly oppressive nature emerges from fear and anger out of Gregor’s presence when he left his room.
Gregor’s father responds with violence not reason, unlike Grete. His father now gave him a truly liberating kick, and he was thrown, bleeding profusely, far into his room. The door was battered shut with the cane, and then at last there was quiet (Kafka 1214). When he saw Gregor’s transformation he was obsessed with getting Gregor back into his room. Gregor’s isolation prevents him from asserting any kind of authority over his family. This also symbolizes his authority over his family is taken away from him.
In the end, Grete finally asserts authority to resolve the family’s ongoing problem and decides Gregor’s fate. We must get rid of it,’ cried the sister again, ?that’s the only thing for it Father. You just have to put from your mind any thought that it’s Gregor. Our continuing to think that it was, for such a long time, therein lies the source of our misfortune (Kafka 1232). She explains that his unwillingness to remain in his room is evident to Gregor’s inconsiderate behavior which decidedly cannot be human. If Gregor truly cared about his family’s well-being, he would have left them alone. Instead, he stays right where he is and continues to cause trauma.
Gregor always provided everything for his family which promoted their laziness before his metamorphosis and after. While he worked hard to get his family out of debt, they gladly accepted his hard-earned money to use for themselves with no sense of appreciation. His father had money locked away, which could’ve helped speed the process of them getting out of debt. After Gregor’s metamorphosis, they all got jobs because their one source of income wasn’t able to carry out his work duties. His parents were able to work which makes us wonder why they didn’t in the first place. When the tables had turned, Gregor needed his family’s support and they eventually abandoned him. Gregor’s passing finally releases them from his burden. The ending of the story was sad considering how Gregor devoted his life for his family, but at the end of day they realized they didn’t need him at all.
In conclusion, the role of authority shifts as the family has taken their life back from Gregor’s overshadowing nature. They realized that they gained a lot more financially and are better off without him.
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