Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a complex tale in which family dynamics shape Gregor’s outcome. This, of course, does not make the story unique. Family dynamics shape the outcomes for a wide range of different people, and Kafka’s tale, like most written by him, are reflective of the drier, realer parts of life. For Gregor, the Samsa family dynamics are incredibly important. Kafka writes of a Gregor who is nothing is not mundane. While he is undergoing a horrible fate—being turned into a horrible bug that is forgotten by family and abandoned by the world—he is still unable to properly accept that fate. He instead focuses on the duller parts of his story, including his unfortunate commute to work. The family dynamic of the Samsa’s is incredibly toxic, and this is one of the things that drive’s Gregor to his disturbing fate. While it might feel a bit like Gregor gets there alone, this is not the case. His transformation from a normal guy to one who is buried in his room, forgotten the by world, the signs of an abusive family that chooses not only to ignore its duty to love him, but also takes advantage of him in ways that are problematic.
One of the thing that are clear in this story is that Gregor end up in his ultimate fate in part, because of the way his family leaches off of him. Gregor begins as a normal boy full of normal ideas. He is the son, of course, and he likes to do the things that sons usually do. However, Kafka flips the usual family structure right on its head in this particular story. Rather than being the one who is supported, Gregor is the one who does the supporting. Throughout the story, the reader begins to see Gregor as a person who is just tired of his life. Much is being put on his shoulders, as the family asks him to contribute more than a young boy should. Part of this has to do with his father, the invalid, who’s strength seems to be growing back as Gregor’s fade. His father is incapable of producing, and just like Gregor’s mother and sister, he sits around and expects Gregor to keep providing for him. Over time, this creates a sort of anger in Gregor. He begins to see the world not as a place where people love and support him on his journey, but where people keep asking and expecting things off of him. They want him to do their work. When the disparity continues like this, people can eventually just give up on life as it should be lived. This is what happened with Gregor, and it is the main reason why he ends up in his fate.
The lack of self-awareness of his family was a major part of the dynamic. Though the family members are themselves takers who are not interested in investing in Gregor, they do not see themselves in this way (Rozuel). Rather, they fail in every way to see Gregor’s situation as one that demands empathy. The author writes of the interactions between Gregor and his father. He writes in particular, “He became confused and started turning back in the wrong directions … of course in his father’s current state it could not possibly have occurred to him to open the door’s other wing… He was fixated on the notion that Gregor must disappear… his father administrated a powerful shove from behind, a genuinely liberating thrust that sent him flying, bleeding profusely, into the far reaches of his room” (Kafka 50-51). This particular scene was one in which Gregor’s father was responding to Gregor’s changes. Kafka presents the family reality as continuing to push Gregor more and more toward his eventual form. Perhaps if the family had been able to understand at all, and if they had any awareness whatsoever of the situation facing Gregor, they might have saved him from his fate. They did not know, though, and this is demonstrated even more by the anger with which Gregor’s father treats him in the work.
Part of the reclusion of Gregor has to do with the fear that is a major part of his life. The family dynamic is a difficult one there. It is the kind of home where the family members are doubtful and suspicious of one another, and they are all living in pain because of it. Rather than living in pain in a normal way, they are actually taking out their pain on one another. This is most true for Gregor’s father. The father finds himself constantly pushing his son away, not because of anything his son has done, but because Gregor’s father is unhappy with his own life. That hostile expression on the father’s face is a reflection of a family dynamic that is fundamentally broken. This helped to push Gregor further and further into his reclusiveness state.
One might look at the situation of Gregor and see that it could have ended at almost any point (Kim). If someone had interfered, then he might not have ended up with his ultimate fate. However, the family dynamic that ruled their interactions made it all but impossible for anyone to truly interfere in the situation. At one point, his mother tried to intervene, but even Gregor agreed that she should not. Kafka said that Gregor’s mother wanted to enter his room quiet early in the book because she wanted to go check on him, but this sister and father forbids her from doing so. As they were telling the mother Gregor overheard the discussion, and approved with there point. Ultimately the situation within the family was so dysfunctional that Gregor even agreed with them that he should just remain in isolation. Gregor, it seems, might have had the love of a mother, but he was denied that love by the people around him. Even he did not think enough of himself to demand that love, and acted against his own interests. He came to so distrust his family because of their particular approach to life that he would not allow them to help him overcome what was surely going to be his downfall.
At the end of the day, Kafka creates a picture of a family that totally explodes away with all of the conventions that one might think of with a traditional family. The son works, the father is an invalid, and things are so messed up that the son does not even think that he deserves the love of his mother. The anger that his father has led to an environment of fear in which Gregor could not grow. Beyond that, he just became abandoned by life because he was asked to do so much. He felt suicidal from his first perspective of life. He felt lost when he spoke about his work, and he had a wrong idea of the true nature of his family’s emotions towards him. Rather than being able to operate on his own and grow like a normal young man, he had the pressure of an entire family on his shoulders. This dynamic helped to pressure him in such a way that he could not properly develop. This led to his suicide, which really was brought to him by his family because it would have either been from his and or theirs.
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