Blog Post 6: Changes

Hi everyone,
Hope you’re having a good weekend so far. Our text for this week, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, introduces us to a different social and historical context and a different kind of narrative world, so let’s use this blog post to set up some foundational thinking about how it’s addressing some of our continuing concerns: what seems to be important about monstrosity in this text? What characterizes it here, and what issues does it seem to be addressing? large
You’re free to pursue these questions in whatever way seems relevant and important to you, as long as you work directly with the language of Kafka’s story to develop your thinking.
Happy reading, and paper-writing — let me know if you have any questions as you’re working on things.
Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Sunday, October 9th. After class on Monday, you should return to this thread and post a response to one classmate’s post by class time Friday the 14th (remember this is a changed date due to the Wednesday holiday). If you have any questions, let me know via email.
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26 thoughts on “Blog Post 6: Changes

  1. Jessica Pavia
    Blog Post 6

    After reading the small biography before the short story, I decided to read The Metamorphosis through a mental illness lens. Kafka struggled with “the conviction that goodness is very remote and nearly impossible to attain.” Gregor, in The Metamorphosis, turns into a gigantic beetle that causes him to be isolated and shunned from the rest of the family. The idea of monstrosity finds itself in this piece because when Gregor transforms into this monster, his family immediately believes any trace of Gregor is gone. They fear this creature that has taken Gregor’s space, and take no time to try and figure out what has happened. Rather than attempting to fix this situation, or at least discover what could have led to this transformation, they treat him as a monster. Gregor begins to think of himself as nothing but a monster, giving into the idea pushed upon him from his family.
    This is where I believe Kafka is making a statement about mental illness, and how families can selfishly find ways to blame the victim of their condition. Gregor hides under the sofa in his room whenever a family member enters because it’s “where he [feels] comfortable” (398). As readers, we are able to see that he feels like a burden to his family, and wants to “help [them] to bear the inconvenience he was bound to cause them in his present condition.” Struggling with a mental illness victimizes the host just in its nature: it is your mind’s fault it feels this way, there was no outside force. Gregor already feels lost within his situation, but with the added trouble that he believes himself to be causing his family trouble isolates him within himself even more. Gregor was once the sole provider of his family, but now he can’t be anymore–working for the family validated his purpose, without it he feels completely lost and alone. When someone has a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, they can feel separated from their family and as if they don’t have a place there anymore, especially if they no longer enjoy the same things they once did.
    I find what Kafka is doing with The Metamorphosis interesting. In all the monster texts we have read so far, the monsters were created by an outside force. But here, Gregor punishes himself for causing his condition. And what else can he do? There was no creator or vampire that transformed him into a monster, just one day he woke up as one. Kafka shows that not all monsters are this supernatural or un-dead beings, that sometimes they are normal humans who struggle with their own minds on a daily basis.

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    • I think the idea of his transformation being equal to mental illness is fascinating, and something I definitely didn’t think of the first time through. I think that it might be possible that the sudden transformation might be equal to a break down or tipping point for Gregor, considering how much pressure his family places on him. The idea of feeling physically alienated from your family, and feeling more like a nuisance than anything else strongly fits in with the idea that the bug form of Gregor is a metaphor for mental illness. In addition to this you can add on a layer of complexity in relationship to the neurotypical perspective of his family. All his family can see is the bug, it’s not necessarily their fault that they are terrified by Gregor now, they just don’t understand what he is anymore and they honestly seem to try their hardest at taking care of him, even if they don’t actually understand how to properly support him.

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  2. In Metamorphosis, monstrosity is used ironically to show that the people who are afraid of monsters are the monsters themselves. Gregor is turned into a monstrous bug, though he is the nicest, most genuine person in the story. He cares for his family, creates income for them when nobody else works, and loses sleep over his job. When his family realizes that he turns into a bug, they are afraid, threatened, and even try to kill him. Gregor’s response to their fear, however, is understanding to the point where he even hides himself with a sheet to protect his sister from being afraid of his appearance “… one day he carried a sheet on his back to the sofa-it cost him four hours’ labor-and arranged it there in such a way as to hide himself completely, so that even if she were to bend down she could not see him” (402). This is not the response most people associate with monstrosity. Gregor’s benevolence and understanding makes it all the more heartbreaking when his parents reject him and let him starve in a dark room. The monsters, in this case, are the other family members who judge and hurt their child because they do not understand his change.
    Metamorphosis is similar to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the sense that the monsters in these novels are only seen as monstrous because people label them as “others” and “foreign”. Though Frankenstein’s monster ended up hurting people, he hurts them because nobody accepts and listens to him. Monstrosity in Metamorphosis and Frankenstein is used ironically to show that the people who are prejudiced and hurtful to “outsiders” are the monsters themselves. Frankenstein’s monster is an “outsider” because he is not common amongst the human race, and because he does not fit in, he is chastised by humans. This is the same for Gregor; because Gregor has become an insect and no longer is seen as a human (though he is human on the inside), he is abused and chastised based upon his appearance. This problem is extremely relevant and prominent in our own society today for we are dealing with heavy problems of racism and sexism. The monsters are not the victims themselves, the monsters are the people who chastise others for being “different.” This is shown in the passage where Gregor startles his sister and her glass drops, cutting Gregor’s face. The father comes rushing in and blames Gregor immediately because Gregor simply looks monstrous and capable of hurting his sister, though he did nothing; “It was clear to Gregor that his father had taken the worst interpretation of Grete’s all too brief statement and was assuming that Gregor had been guilty of some violent act” (406). Gregor is blamed and punished for something he never committed, simply because he looks like he would be able to harm someone. This is paralleled to the problems we are having today with racial profiling. A person who takes four hours of their time to put a sheet over themselves to hide their appearance from their own family is not a monster, the monsters are those who do not understand that the outside of a person does not reflect who they are on the inside, making them want to hide themselves in the first place.

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    • When I read through Metamorphosis, I also thought the way Gregor’s family treats his transformation heartbreaking. When the sister was being helpful and caring, I held on all hope that she would somehow cure him, or at least provide some support, but even she becomes monstrous to Gregor. We talked a lot about how Gregor may have always been a “bug,” and how he just kind of accepts his position. But I think this is really because Gregor had no time to access the situation since his family immediately shuns and isolates him. In this way, I see your connection to Frankenstein: how Frankenstein becomes a monster because everyone treated him as such, I think the same is with Gregor. He becomes inhumane and just a bug because that’s all anyone allows him to be. They never try to help him–support he obviously needs since it’s so hard for him to maneuver himself–and never give him a chance to fix himself. There was nothing he could do but become a bug, which then makes the parents monsters in my eyes.

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  3. In Metamorphasis, the author is giving and over arching theme that there are monsters within all of us. However, Franz Kafka took this theme to an extreme by making Gregor Samsa a physical form of a monster. As soon as protagonist wakes up, he realizes that he, in a physical form, is a monster which causes him to struggle getting up, getting to work and explaining himself to the chief. While Gregor was having these problems, “he confined himself to saying: ‘Yes, yes, thank you mother, I’m getting up now” (Kafka 388). This shows that he has to confine himself to yes and no answers because he doesn’t want anyone to suspect that he was in a tough situation at the moment. This idea of confinement goes into the theme of monsters within all of us because monsters are confined in certain spaces and arent able to do certain things as they would desire. Gregor would have desired to get to the train on time but he was locked in his home and struggled to open the door for his parents and the chief. Also, when an individual is identified as a monster, there is an idea of helplessness that cannot be changed unless society decides to allow the monster to conform. Once Gregor realized that all of the doors were locked, “ought he really call for help” (Kafka 390)? This shows that no one is around to help and provide assistance when you look different than everyone else. Monstrosity is displayed strongly in this story exhibiting the struggles of being out casted and unaccepted.

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    • I think one of the important aspects that your reply touches on is the idea of extremity. When you say that Franz Kafka goes to the extreme by making Gregor Samsa transorm into a literal monster, you as exploring the aspect of the absurd, and the grotesque, which are two important themes in The Metamorphosis. I think the reason why he adopts this strategy is to primarily shock the reader, as they are faced with some very vivid imagery that puts the reader in an extremely uncomfortable position. But I think another reason why Kakfa chose to do this is to explore the idea of monstrosity at a more explicit manner. Here, we do not have a rhetoric of the supernatural where vampires are real, like in Dracula, but what we do see in actuality is a monster that comes to life in our real, non-supernatural, world. Nonetheless, I do disagree with you in the instance of Kafka exploring the idea of “monsters inside all of us”. I think an integral part in The Metamorphosis is the existential crisis that the author is going through. He does not see everyone as monster, but in reality, he sees everyone as useless. Gregor’s transformation into a bug does not explore his evil side, but explores the uselessness in his life.

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    • Hey Maurice-
      As we were discussing in class as well as what you have here, I agree that Gregor’s bug transformation indicates that we all have monstrous qualities in us. Gregor is a “pest” for being a salesman and his transformation into a bug reflects this type of job. Although this is true, why do you think that Gregor is picked out of all the characters? I think that he is chosen ironically because he is in fact the most caring one in the family. He is a salesman not because he is a pest, but because he has to support his entire family. The pests actually happen to be his family, for they nag him to keep working and never let him have a break. The monstrousness comes from his family because they don’t care that he is has changed into a bug and eventually dies. You sort of touch upon this when you state that monsters are helpless, which is a very interesting comment. Society chooses who is monstrous and then shuns them, therefore monsters develop the feeling of helplessness. This is why I think Kafka picks Gregor as the monster, a very nice and benevolent character in the piece, because it is ironic. Choosing Gregor as the monster reflects upon how society victimizes people who did nothing wrong in the first place. The people who victimize others for doing nothing are actually the monsters themselves.

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  4. Rebekah Clapham
    Metamorphosis Blog Post

    In Metamorphosis Franz Kafka uses monstrosity to reflect his characters’ feelings and inner fears of incompetence, unworthiness, and shame. The short story focuses on a once very competent man, whose family relied and depended on him, and his struggle when he turns into a bug. As a bug, he cannot do the simplest of tasks, such as getting out of bed. Kafka describes, “he would have needed arms and hands to hoist himself up; instead he had only the numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control in the least” (389). Gregor is helpless and powerless as a bug—his physical form seems to represent his fears of incompetence. In this scene, the long, detailed description of Gregor attempting to do things that are thoughtless and easy for humans makes the reader feel anxious. Kafka describes Gregor’s attempts to open the door, which, as a bug, is a long and laborious process, suggesting that Gregor is incompetent. He also can no longer communicate with his family. When he talks, “the words he uttered were no longer understandable, apparently, although they seemed clear enough to him, even clearer than before” (393). Gregor has no power or influence in his family dynamic anymore. No one is listening to him/no one is able to understand him, thus he is disconnected. Completely hindered by his form, he lacks any power and is basically incompetent and useless. Gregor’s fear of not being good enough are also reflected when he hears his sister crying and his immediate reaction is to think she is crying “because he was in danger of losing his job and because the chief would being dunning his parents again for the old debt” (391). This reaction reflects Gregor’s anxieties and pressure he feels to be the one providing for and taking care of his family. Whenever his hears his family discussing money and savings Gregor feels “hot with shame and grief (401). Now that he can no longer provide, both he and his family view him as “an invalid” now that he cannot perform his expected role (398). As a result, his father has to step up and fill the place of two men—shown in the way his father refuses to take off his uniform. The dynamic between Gregor and his father is also influenced by Gregor’s monstrosity. Gregor’s father now views him as disgusting and a nuisance, and consequently tries to kill him by crushing him with his foot. The fact that his father is disgusted with his son now that his son can no longer provide and fulfill his gender role expectations as a man, signifies the pressure and stress Gregor receives from his father. Trying to crush him with his foot seems to symbolically represent how Gregor feels smothered by his father’s high expectations. All of the feelings of unworthiness and incompetence affect Gregor and as a result he spends much of his time “crawling crisscross over the walls and ceiling” (403). This reminded me of the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (written in 1892) where a woman who feels imprisoned by expectations from her husband and her forced gender role, “crawls” along the walls as well. To spare his family further “inconvenience” through his existence, Gregor decides to “lie low.” Even when he is lying low, he is still causing strain in his family. It is only when he dies that his family becomes happy again “as if a burden had been lifted from them” (417). Gregor’s monstrous metamorphosis could be symbolic not just of Gregor’s inner fears and feelings, but of Kafka’s as well.

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    • I agree with what you said about the reader’s response to Gregor’s inability to perform simple tasks. It made me incredibly anxious to read about him trying to get out of bed and just flailing on his back. We’ve all seen beetles or other bugs get stuck on their backs just rolling around trying to right themselves again, but this text actually explains that feeling of helplessness. As a man, Gregor had so many pressures to be the sole provider for his family and live mindlessly in this proletariat lifestyle, but as a bug he is unable to do the simplest of tasks like opening a door or even get out of bed. After this transition, the previously very capable and motivated Gregor is utterly helpless and vulnerable, and the family roles are reversed because he went from being the sole provider to needing to be provided for in every way.

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  5. The opening line in Franz Kafka’s metamorphosis, “Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect” (386) immediately grabs the reader on how the subject will be treated throughout the rest of the story. This quote basically shows Gregor’s change as though it were an ordinary event while never bringing up why has Gregor undergone metamorphosis. In addition, I find it strange that even Gregor does
    not seem to question why he had undergone such change. Another quote that I found to be important was when Gregor’s sister cried “He must go that’s the only solution, Father. You must
    just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we’ve believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble” (415). Gregor’s family doesn’t seem to know how much of Gregor’s human traits remain. At this point, Gregor is not able to speak, so his family is at a loss of knowing whether his mind is still humanlike. Gregor’s father feels bad for him but Gregor’s sister doesn’t believe that this bug is Gregor and that the bug has taken up Gregor’s soul since it has taken over his whole human spirit. His family believes that the bug is becoming a burden on them and believe that Gregor is gone. This leads to them turning Gregor’s room into a storage closet without thinking about how this would affect Gregor and whether he would like it. From all these events that transpired, I believe Kafka is portraying to the reader that Gregor’s nice personality did not change even though he became a bug but his family still abandoned him. This shows that the true monsters are those who fear those who are different from everyone else.

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    • I agree with your ideas and I want to further them. I think Gregor does not care for the transformation into a bug because, of this idea of his life being a routine. The neutral tone taken to the whole idea of becoming a bug is due to him simply always needing money to support his family. No matter what he looks like, his mind is always set on the idea of being the soul provider for the family and no matter what he needs to look past whatever happened the day before, even transformation from human to bug and get back on the horse. Also to piggyback on your last sentence, the way the family views Gregor is sub human, unlike previous monsters we have dealt with, like Dracula and the monster, who are considered super human. The body of Gregor might have changed, but the mind stayed the same, which is something you pointed out. This idea is only furthered when you think of the job which Gregor had before transforming. He was a traveling salesman who infested other people’s homes and made a mess to show them a product and rip them off almost to some extent. He was a pest before turning into an actual bug himself. The people that are the real monsters though in the story are the parents and sister who cannot look past his appearance to see his mind that is still the same fro before he transformed. This idea that he is not human because he cannot be heard, cannot work, and his hideous appearance, shows the true morals of how we as people are viewed in this society. Take away these things and you are not considered a person anymore.

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  6. This text is a very interesting one. The ideas of monstrosity are ever present again, but this time with a new creature to fear. The character of Gregor relates a lot, I feel, to the monster in “Frankenstein”. He is a misunderstood creature, but just wants to fit in with his family once again, and be able to live in the real world and not just a room. Gregor says even, “he felt great pride in the fact that he had been able to provide such a life for his parents and sister in such a fine flat” (Kafka 397). His characterization here can be seen as very selfless. He is locked in a room with barely enough food to survive at this point and yet he feels so content with it all because, his family gets to live their lives better because of him. What Kafka is trying to portray here is the idea of who the real monsters are of this story. It isn’t Gregor with his selfless acts, but the family who shun him and confine him to a room to live his life. Later on Kafka says, “‘Well, he liked his dinner today,’ she would say when Gregor had made a good clearance of his food” (399). The diction in which the girl says this is a mockery of the character of Gregor and she almost treats him like a mentally handicapped person, when speaking about him to his parents. He is of the same mind, but different body and this changes everything about his treatment. He is isolated, just like the monster in “Frankenstein”, treated differently just by the way he looks. I also look at the food and the feeding of him as being almost pet like. They treat him as a dog giving him the scraps of their meals and feeding him almost on a schedule, like I do with my pets back home.

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    • Hey Jeremy,
      I see how Gregor relates to Frankenstein because they both are isolated and not seen as regulars even though they are fully sane and them being monsters isn’t their fault. The only difference is that Gegor was completely isolated from everyone and a “pest” that everyone completely dislikes. Throughout the story, he was slowly shunned and pushed away by everyone while Frankenstein did have one friend to rely on. Gregor had nobody to hang on to so he became his own individual and actual bug mentally that he physically became.

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  7. In The Metamorphosis, the character who actually went through a physical metamorphosis was the most stagnant. Far from a dynamic character, Gregor doesn’t change as a character at all after physically being transformed into a huge bug. As if it were like waking up to having a pimple, Gregor is absurdly unbothered by the discovery of his body transformation and worries instead about getting to work on time. His determination to go to get on a train and go to work as a giant bug is even more absurd and immediately reveals how mixed up his priorities are.
    Gregor’s life is really sad. Already living as an empty vessel/ bug exoskeleton, his metamorphosis is purely physical because mentally he was already a cockroach. Working as a traveling salesman, a pest by any reference, living at home without any friends, Gregor simply exists to go to work at five in the morning and then come home to aimlessly read the train schedule because he gets on the same train to work at exactly five every morning. Maybe his only actual pleasure is to look at the schedule and imagine getting on a different train to go somewhere wonderful besides work, but it seems unlikely that Gregor could ever be imaginative.
    Although he doesn’t have any intimate friends, Gregor’s family is really intense. The one day that he doesn’t wake up at four in the morning to scurry off to work, everyone is agitated knocking on the doors to his room, his father most aggressively, and the chief going so far out of his way to go to Gregor’s home and berate him. Because of this it makes sense for Gregor to be disproportionately focused on work and already mentally a cockroach. His demanding family and employers leave no room for flexibility, forcing him to literally become a rigid bug with a small brain and a hard exoskeleton.

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    • I think your point that Gregor in his human state had the mental state of a bug is fascinating. The visual of Gregor getting up and going to work and thinking of nothing else for the past five years does in fact remind me of a bug. Just as a bug might spent it’s days focusing on nothing other than collecting its food and doing its job for the day, this is how Gregor devoted his time. I also agree with you, in that his transformation reflects how high he values and prioritizes work in his life. On the other hand, I feel like Gregor’s transformation does bring upon some change within him– I do not see him as completely stagnant. He discuss how he used to be a compassionate person, but cannot say that anymore now that he witnesses the amount in which his family isolates him. I think that his transformation wakes up to a revelation in realizing how and what he really should be prioritizing in his life.

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    • I think you bring up an interesting point; the fact how Gregor feels about his body makes us wonder what’s going on with him within. However, there is a grater theme to explore, which is, the disconnection between his body and his mind. Since the first day of the transformation, he felt the disconnection between his mind and body when he tried to get up from his bed standing upright, but it failed to do so. The alteration had distorted his body completely but his mind is unchanged, therefore his body and his mind lack the perfect harmony. Gregor also attempts to go to work many times, even though that’s impossible given his situation. He was surprised to learn that he doesn’t like the taste of milk, which was his favorite drink when he was human being. In spirit, he continues to believe he is a human being, but since his body is not a human body, he had a hard time trying to reunite these two parts of him. As the story goes on, Gregor becomes accustomed to his new body and tries to meet his physical needs and desires. He started liking dark and tight spaces like under the sofa and started enjoying crawling on the wall and celling, which suggests that our physical body directs and shapes our mental lives.

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  8. Reading The Metamorphosis, I couldn’t help but recount our first class, and our conversation addressing what makes a monster so monstrous. While we can think of the conventional monster as supernatural and scary, Kafka addresses that can indeed be the opposite. In Metamorphosis, the hard working and kind hearted Gregor transforms into a giant insect for an unknown reason, in which his family ostracize him. Despite this unfortunate case, Gregor feels like he’s the one who’s betrayed his family. Kafka states, “whenever the need for earning money was mentioned Gregor let his hold on the door and threw himself down on the cool leather sofa beside it, he felt so hot with shame and grief”(401). Even after his life has been taken away, Gregor still puts his family before himself, and disappointed he can’t give them the best. It’s later mentioned however, that his father has hoarded money that could have helped Gregor quit his hellish job, yet instead of being betrayed, he only feels “it was better the way his father arranged it”(401). Even as an insect, Gregor still remains more selfless than most of his family. When his mother faints at the sight of him, he rushes into the hall to see if he can help, but only scares Greta, and ends up getting abused by his father. While he may be have a disgusting appearance, Gregor is by no means the true monster in this story, but rather the people who treat him as such. It seems Kafka is trying to get at the idea that monstrosity doesn’t have to be physically abnormal, to be just as evil.

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    • I agree that Kafka is challenging the idea of what makes something or someone monstrous. While reading this short story, one would readily assume that Gregor is the monster simply because of his appearance and un-human form. However, as you said, Gregor is “more selfless than most of his family.” Along with trying to help his mother when his mother faints only to be punished by his father, Gregor continuously thinks of others. He tries to save his sister from having to perform in front of the three lodgers, and he tries to cover himself with a sheet to spare his family further distress, disgust, or embarrassment at his form. I agree that the true monstrosity is not Gregor, but instead his family (specifically his father). However, one would most typically assume Gregor is the monster in this story. This makes me question what we label as monstrous, and why. I feel we experience monstrous behavior from “typical” people on the daily, yet we outcast people that look different than us instead of those that act in monstrous ways. Therefore, I like your statement that “Gregor is by no means the true monster in this story, but rather the people who treat him as such. It seems Kafka is trying to get at the idea that monstrosity doesn’t have to be physically abnormal, to be just as evil.” Because of this, I want to further explore how Gregor’s family views and treats him—before and after his transformation. Specifically, Gregor’s mother treats him awfully and views him as vermin but still stops his father from killing him. Gregor’s sister also seems to somewhat care for him while simultaneously being disgusted by him. Gregor’s father is the one who seems to have zero tolerance for Gregor, and there seem to be strong power dynamics and elements of domination in their relationship.

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  9. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis discusses themes of monstrosity in a unique way that I have never seen before. While Frankenstein and Dracula both included monsters with fearful appearances, neither characters went through a physical transformation from human to another creature. I believe this could be Kafka’s way of addressing that monsters could be anywhere we look; it does not depend upon physical appearance, as much as it does one’s life experiences. Although Gregor is the one to transform into the monster-like being of a bug, he is not in fact the one we, as readers, fear. Instead, we fear his setting, and those around him. I find it fascinating how immediately his parents fear entering his room because of his appearance. Similarly to both Frankenstein and Dracula, Gregor’s appearance is what defines the way people treat him. This idea is not addressed until Gregor is hurt by his father: “Gregor was a member of the family, despite his present unfortunate and repulsive shape, and ought not to be treated as an enemy…” (Kafka 408). Kafka is commenting on is the idea that monsters may lie in humans— even those without horrifying appearances. Instead of wanting to be their or help their son, Gregor’s parents treat him as a monster, and an outcast of the family. Kafka is illustrating the theme that the way we treat others can be reflected on the way that others feel about themselves, and in the way that they behave in society.

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    • I do like that you talk about Kafka’s interpretation of monsters that they can be anywhere no matter what their physical appearance is. I believe that Gregor’s parents outcast him mostly because they feel that he is a burden on the family and don’t want to take care of him anymore. Kafka is showing that no matter how close you may feel to a particular group of people, in this case family, they can still turn their back on you especially in this instance because Gregor’s family depended on him to work all the time to bring in money since no one else was doing it. Now that he can’t work, the family has no use for him and is tossed aside without any remorse.

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  10. What is interesting about the manner in which monstrosity is explored in The Metamorphosis is that instead of tip-toeing around the monster figure, Franz Kafka, has his work begin automatically with his protagonist being literally transformed into a bug. This is a result of a lot of existential angst that Franz Kafka felt towards his own life during the time of publication. Kafka had Gregor transform into a literal bug in order to exemplify his belief that people who become products of the industrial society lose their humanity and do essentially become as useful as bugs. This is super important given that this piece was written shortly after the Industrial Revolution, which means that a lot of what Kafta is critiquing is the idea that people have somehow become a product of industrialization and in turn, have lost pieces of their identity that essentially bring meaning to their existence. This frame of thought is central in classifying a work as an Existential piece. Kafka’s existential critique also comes by Gregor’s inability to understand the insignificance of his life. For instance, when Gregor is pondering about his job he says: “O God,’ he thought, ‘what a demanding job I’ve chosen! Day in, day out on the road. The stresses of trade are much greater than the work going on at head office, and, in addition to that, I have to deal with the problems of traveling, the worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which never come from the heart.” (Kafka 333). The irony in the fact that Gregor thinks his jobs is demanding comes to light when Gregor begins to realize that his transformation into a literal bug does not affect his job, and basically, no one but his sister seem to be truly upset about the fact that he is no longer human. The existential dread in The Metamorphosis is what I have noticed as the most important theme in the work.

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    • I absolutely agree that existentialism is the main theme throughout the Metamorphosis. Something that stands out to me is the nature of bugs in big groups. Some bugs only purpose is to support for their colonies, “putting food on the table for their family”. Gregor has essentially developed no personality, and his existence can be equated to a bug. Although Gregor could be seen as a mere insect, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Gregor as well. While he may have no personality, his intentions were always to benefit his family, even if that was enforced by his family. The whole idea of Gregor’s family using him for money, work, and sustenance, is purely monstrous in my opinion. I found myself irritated with the family reading, yet after talking in class I also felt irritated with Gregor. I just wanted to scream at him, “Stop living your life with no purpose! There’s more to life than that!”, which essentially could be Kafka’s main purpose.

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  11. An important theme in the idea of monsters is the power of juxtaposition, and sticking with that theme there is a strong idea being presented in Metamorphosis by Kafka. In Metamorphosis Kafka is showing us the shackles of everyday life through a sudden (and monstrous) change in one day for one man. At the moment any person notices that they have transformed into a bug during the night, you would expect them to be freaking out and demanding immediate attention, but Gregor’s thoughts turn to his job.
    Instead of worrying about if he will ever be able to turn back into a human, or what has caused his transformation, he is fixated on potentially losing his job. This unusually calm fixation is far more disturbing than if he had started getting very upset in the moment. If he had gotten very upset at the idea of being a bug that would imply that being a bug is the most significant thing in his life at the moment (which it really should be), but the fact that work still takes precedence over being a bug really says something about Gregor.
    Gregor is such a slave to corporate system and the routine of his everyday life that it scares him far more than a sudden transfiguration. The working system and the debts he is beholden to have so much absolute influence over his life and he is so entrenched in the system that he finds this to be more prudent. It is almost as if his transformation into a bug is the most liberating thing that happens to him. The surprising ability of his family to adapt to him being a bug is the greatest insult this story has to offer. All the suffering that he went through basically being a slave at his job was really meaningless. The family did not need to place themselves in the everyday prison that they created for Gregor to live in his whole life, and his metamorphosis is the only thing that saved him.

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    • I think Gregor’s choice to save his picture of the lady covered in furs further contributes to your point. Gregor could not think beyond his career – that was the extent of his life. When he becomes a bug he then chooses to save the picture for himself rather than for any other external reason. He begins to grasp some of his natural human instincts again, like his heterosexuality. Gregor goes from being a cog in the machine to a bug with basic human interests, aspects he had lost beforehand.

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  12. Franz Kafka has his own word, “Kafkaesque” meaning so bizarre that there is no explanation, Metamorphosis is a great example of that term. Kafka literally dehumanizes man, turning Gregor into a giant, monstrous bug. Yet, only his family can see his son’s new development and nothing else having lost all ability to communicate. The reader actively keeps up with Gregor’s thoughts, and I personally found myself sympathizing with Gregor’s unexpected situation – more than anything, Gregor seems depressed. He awakes from “troubled dreams” (11) inferring that even before his is aware of his new physicality, not everything was perfect despite his seemingly “family happy” home.
    Gregor was the main provider for his family, which strongly seems to be the only thing that kept him going when human as its all he can fret over. It is also all his parents can fret over too, seeing their son as both more and less, but never as his true self. Gregor’s parents see him as the family’s income and then as a bug, but never as their son. Even though the transformation is entirely shocking, neither his parents make the same valiant efforts as Gregor’s sister, Grete to care for him in his new body, “he could never have guessed what his sister in her kindness actually did,” (26). Despite her terror, Grete makes an effort to help sustain Gregor and adjust to his new sad life. Gregor can no longer eat white bread and milk, he eats trash. He feels like trash. And then he starves to death committing suicide. Gregor’s life was overrun by his parents and he never had a purpose outside of it. Kafka ends his short story with Mr. and Mrs. Samsa admiring Grete’s beauty, “almost unconsciously communicating with each other by looks, they thought it was time to find a good husband for her,” (52). The Samsas want to use Grete to find a new source of steady income, just like Gregor.

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  13. Some thing that stood out as a type on monstrosity in Metamorphosis is Kafka’s idea that man sees so little importance in their lives beyond routine. There is some insanity that we think so little of our lives outside of providing for our families and doing things always the same, but the ” cruelty” we show to ourselves in the process of trying to be a ” provider” for others. Kafka’s character Gregor was no longer not just human, he was the embodiment of a creature that lives only to provide for themselves and he still attempted to be something more than that to a family that saw him as no more than a “pest”. He was not grieved nor was he remembered for anything special (aside from his paycheck) and not even they realized how monstrous they were for how they treated.If Gregor is to be made a monster much like Richard III and Frankenstein’s monster ,then his creators are his family and a society that can only identify a man as how often he goes to work. He is his own monster for subjecting himself to a life that does not go beyond that of a bug. To often he stood on the outside of his family in while a bug, speaking about him as if he was already dead, before he had “given up” the ability to speak. Their behavior was consistent, the only thing that changed is that they were more open with their disgust in the life he had chosen. In this way , his life was more meaningful to himself as a bug to everyone else than a man.

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