“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka (analysis)

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“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka portrays the misfortune faced by Gregor: a once, human who woke up one day to realize that he had turned into an insect. He is neglected merely because he is a repulsive bug who can no longer provide money for his idle family who refused to find a job to contribute to the hard work Gregor put in. He dies in solitude and the feeling of guilt; it seems like Kafka selected the lowest and most hated of insects, portrayed as dirty and disease-ridden, for a symbolic purpose. By turning Gregor into a roach/beetle type bug rather than another creature, Kafka sets up a situation in which it is impossible for Gregor’s family to accept him and even more importantly, this makes Gregor feel guilty and trapped. It is also known that Kafka was not treated well in his family which contributes to the selection of this bug.

Kafka gives Gregor the unfortunate situation of being turned into some type of roach. There is nothing for his family to love about him anymore. He cannot do anything, all his family sees is a repulsive roach who is valueless. His family cannot see past the bug, they do not see Gregor. His family just sees inadequateness. In, “The Cockroach As An Identification: With Reference To Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’” by Peter A. Martin, it is stated, relating to the bug in “Metamorphosis”, that “It represents a feeling of being extremely weak, inferior and unworthy” (Martin 67). Kafka wants to show the way Gregor felt as being this insect to when he was a human. His feelings become more negative to when he felt like he had a purpose in his family. There is a reason for Kafka’s choice in the description of the bug. He describes the most disgusting insect to exist in the world. There is no thought put into this specific bug, it is meritless. Gregor’s parents do not seem to give any care to him. As a critic stated, “It is related to an inability of the individual to differentiate his worth from his parents’ rejecting attitudes,” (Martin 70). Kafka shows that with Gregor as a cockroach, he is shamed and not accepted even though he himself is Gregor.

What is Kafka trying to tell us? Some may say that the bug itself does not have any meaning, but that can be proven otherwise. The whole story is put together because of the type of bug Gregor transforms into. When us readers read that he has an “armor-plated, back” and a “dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments” and “numerous legs” it shows that the insect he chooses is a devastating symbol of low self esteem and self loathing. It prepared us for the nasty things that were going to happen to Gregor simply because of the description of this insect. This sets up a situation where Gregor feels alone and not accepted by his family. What if Kafka had chosen a different bug to describe? An insect that is more accepted in the world. If Gregor woke up to be a butterfly, he would be looked upon differently because butterflies are beautiful and they have nice bright colored wings. A critic once said “Let us suppose for a moment that Gregor had been transformed, not into a beetle but into a butterfly. Surely the butterfly, a thing of beauty would, would have been a far more appropriate symbol” (Parrinder 121). This shows how such a small detail could have turned the story in a completely different direction. Parrinder goes on to ask that “ Is Gregor Samsa's transformation into a gigantic insect an arbitrary act of divine malevolence, as in the ancient stories, or was it somehow already inherent in his earlier life as a human being” (Parrinder 123). Given that Gregor had family problems growing up, the bug that Kafka chose to write about could be a reflection of how he felt growing up.

Kafka’s father was very abusive to him growing up. It made Kafka feel worthless and abandoned, just like a beetle/roach. The bug itself is supposed to express Kafka’s pain growing up in a household where he was neglected and mistreated. Critic says “Quite the contrary, he may be constantly followed, haunted by the oppressive image of his father” (Ryan 136). Kafka’s writing in “The Metamorphosis” is strictly based on the bug he chose to describe to relate to how his father made him feel. A roach and or beetle is always left alone, always put at the bottom because of what it is.

Kafka felt a relation to a roach/beetle because it is so poorly looked upon, just like how his father looked upon him. The scars left on Gregor, the roach, can be seen as the scars Kafka’s father left him with. When the roach finally passes in “The Metamorphosis”, Kafka finally lets go of the horror his father put into him. The insect itself is a very important symbol in this writing. It sets up how the story plays out; it is one trauma led to another all because of the type of insect that is described: a roach.  

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"The Metamorphosis" By Franz Kafka (analysis). (2021, Apr 07). Retrieved May 19, 2024 , from

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