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Existentialism in MATAMORPHOSIS

Existentialism in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis

In Franz Kafkas short story, Metamorphosis, the idea of existentialism is brought out in a subtle, yet
definite way. Existentialism is defined as a belief in which an individual is ultimately in charge of placing
meaning into their life, and that life alone is meaningless. They do not believe in any sort of ultimate power
and focus much of their attention on concepts such as dread, boredom, freedom and nothingness. This
philosophical literary movement emerged in the twentieth-century, when Kafka was establishing his
writing style in regards to alienation and distorted anxiety. A mirror to his own personal lifestyle, this story
follows the short and sad life of a man unable to break out of the bonds society has placed on him. These
bonds are not only evident in the work place, but at home too. Being constantly used and abused while in
his human form, Gregors lifestyle becomes complicated once he becomes a giant insect and is deemed
useless. Conflicts and confusion arise primarily between Gregor and his sister Grete, his parents, and his
work. Each of these three relationships has different moral and ethical complications defining them.
However, it is important for one to keep in mind that Gregors metamorphosis has placed him into a
position of opposition, and that he has minimal control over the events to take place. Conflicts will also
occur between family members as they struggle with the decision of what to do with Gregor. In the end
they all come to the agreement that maintaining his uselessness is slowly draining them and they must
get rid of him.

Grete is a character who appears to have the most tolerance for Gregor shortly after his metamorphosis.

After the first couple months, Gretes compassion and understanding of her brothers condition began to
diminish. With the hope that he may return back to normal quickly fading, and Gretes new job taking up
much of her time, she no longer had room to take care of her useless brother. In this way, Grete was
going through her own metamorphosis. Although not as physically evident as Gregors, she was entering
adulthood and was beginning to take on the ideals and lifestyle typical of her society:
But even if the sister, worn out by her job, ceased to ten to him as
she used to, there was no need for the mothers intervention or for
Gregor to be at all neglected. (40)
Ironically, the individual that was the most compassionate at the beginning of his metamorphosis
becomes the least compassionate in the end. With a statement as simple and blunt as:
We have to try to get rid of it. (46)

Grete convinces her parents into coming to some sort of finalization and Gregor loses all will to live. He
dies that very night and it would not be harsh to assume that this is due to the cold, societal reasoning of
his sister. Kafka uses Grete to prove that unconditional love does not exist, or at least, cannot uphold
itself. Grete cannot maintain Gregors life once she becomes sure that all her time and care will amount to

The arrival of the head clerk at the Samsa household is proves to be a rather intense moment for both
family members and Gregory newly transformed. The head clerk is a clear symbol of Gregors workplace
and the kind of atmosphere he works in. Kafka uses this character to his advantage by annoying the
reader with long obnoxious speeches while Gregor struggles to just make it to the door of his room. The
threats and pressure put on Gregor causes him to disregard his present condition as a large bug and
worry more about getting to work instead:
Mr. Samsa, the head clerk... and neglectingI just mention this
in passingyour professional responsibilities in an outrageous
manner. (13)
His work only values him as they would a machine. The boss stands on a desk to talk down on them,
showing his superiority to his employees. Gregor works long hours and deals with a long commute. All of
this is done to pay off a debt that is not even his. I this way his family exploits him for their own personal
gain. His family proves to be greedy, self-centered individuals who only valued Gregor while he was able
to support them. They back up the efforts of the head clerk to coax him out of bed for fear that he may
lose his job. Gregor understands that his worth in the family only comes from the money he brings in, but
he only knows this at a subconscious level. He refuses to see his family as being at fault and focuses his
dislike on the head clerk.
Did the head clerk himself have to come, and did the whole
Innocent family have to be. (12)

Because of the need to comply with the rules of society, Gregor feels he must keep his job as a sales
man, despite the treatment he suffers from. Having never missed a day of work previously, it is appalling
to consider the speeches of the head clerk as true. For something as simple as missing the beginning of a
single day of work to receive reprimands such as this:
I see your incredible obstinacy and have completely lost any
desire to intercede on your behalf. (14)
Conflict arises when Gregor exposes himself and rushes after the head clerk to scare him out of his
house. This is one of very few instances where Gregor (as a person inside an insect shell) actively, and
with purpose, rebels against the circumstances he disagrees with. Once Gregor comes to terms with the
severity of his condition the thought of work, which was previously so prominent in his mind, disappears.

Existentialism requires an individual to rise above the depressive conditions of humanity through personal
articulation. The metamorphosis of Gregor allowed him to recognize the fact that he was being
suppressed by society. His exterior form caused his family to question their own lifestyles and re-adapt,
shunning that which was useless to them. Kafkas book, Metamorphosis, causes readers to question their
own lives to this very day in regards to living with purpose and intent. Doing so may cause conflict as one
fights against the will of society, but with it comes liberation and a whole new understanding of

The main point which stood out to me in Existentialist theories was the idea that the
meaning of life is found through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. We
and we alone, are the ones who determine our final destiny. We have the power to
alter our essence of nature as a whole and make choices based on our own instinct.
This is quite similar to the message Kafka was trying to portray in his story. Gregor
transforms from a human to an insect, symbolizing his feeling of alienation in his
own family, and feeling trapped in his own life. His separation from all human
contact, leaves him in complete control of his own personal morals and decisions.
He has been left with only his own free will to determine his fate, while he feels
trapped within his own body. When Gregors room was being reorganized for
example, his family planned to remove all the paintings from the wall. It was
Gregors personal choice to stand up for his rights as an individual by clinging onto
the picture before they had a chance to remove it completely. He stood his ground
by protesting his personal freedom being taken from him.
Another parallel between both Existentialism theory and Kafkas text was the idea
that an individual is at its best when struggling against their own individual nature.
The existentialisms believe that although life is not always pleasant and satisfying,
it has importance and meaning nonetheless. Existentialism states further that we
are constantly searching for the true meaning of our personal journey in life, and
the suffering and pain we endure is what enhances our discoveries. Kafka depicted
Gregor as a weak and helpless bug, being trod on and controlled by humans. He is
constantly engaged in a battle with himself. Although Gregors life appeared to
become more painful and worthless as time went on, his suffering left him wiser and
stronger as an individual. He had the chance to observe human life, from an insects
perspective, and analyse the selfish nature of all humans, especially his family.
Gregors struggle, and death, left his family to be reborn.
In conclusion, I can say that my understanding of Kafkas novella was enriched after
relating it to the theories of existentialism. The idea that human destiny is
determined by an individuals personal choices and personal responsibly related to
the way Gregor was forced to live. As well, the idea that although life is not always
optimally satisfying, it has meaning and significance. The knowledge and ideas from
both these pieces helped be better understand each of them in an entirely new
Existentialists believe that when someone tries to impose her/his beliefs onto
another, the latters individualism is compromised and destroyed. In the novella,
Gregor is forced to get out of bed at unspeakable hours to get to work to support his
family. When he arrives at work, he is forced to be subjected to the torment of
traveling, to the worries about train connections, the bad meals at irregular hours,
an intercourse with people that constantly changes (12). He undergoes such barren
actions not because they are beneficial to his being, but solely because someone
else enforced those rules upon him. The result of this is a largely disgruntled
Gregor, who is now a carbon copy of countless others who are forced to heave
themselves to work every morning. In the novella, Gregor is no longer an individual.
He is portrayed as an average working man supporting his family. Perhaps if earlier
in life he had been exposed to a more supportive and thoughtful environment, he
would have a job in a field he really enjoyed. Maybe then he wouldnt need to get
up at five.
Notable existentialists agree that life is never optimally satisfying, but nonetheless
meaningful. Gregor Samsas life, tragic in its mundaneness, was not satisfying.
Moreover, his death was anticlimactic. There was no long description, no
lamentation. Gregors head involuntarily sank down altogether, and his last break
issued faintly from his nostrils (49). To the reader, this is very unsatisfying.
However, it still has meaning. He was given no special attention in life and,
ultimately, in death. It would seem illogical for Kafka to write a long passage
detailing each iota of information about his passing. Gregors quiet death reflects
his quiet life. His continuous labour for his family, albeit monotonous, was very
meaningful. This is especially evident after he was no longer able to care for them.
His life and death meant something as they were instrumental to his parents and
sisters metamorphoses.
There are other examples of existentialism in the text. In a broader sense, Gregors
situation is an existentialist contradiction. Poor Gregor has no access to the
backbone of existentialism: free will, choice, liberty, truth. The Metamorphosis is a
layering of existential notions, quotations and messages. A solid knowledge of the
philosophy will clarify the questions raised from the novella, as numerous as they
Existentialism focuses on the nature of choice, and that the choices that are made
will have some sort of consequence or outcome on certain situations. After studying
existentialism it is clear that Franz Kafakas novella The Metamorphosis, used a lot
of existentialism when creating the character Gregor Samsa. Gregor may appear to
have little choice in his decisions that occur throughout his life as a cockroach,
although prior to him becoming a cockroach he worked as a salesman. It was a long,
and dreary job that he despised. During this stage in Gregors life he had choices all
around him, but he decided to maintain his job day after day. So maybe Gregor
being turned into a cockroach in the first place is because thats what he wanted.
He hated his job and pretty much his life entirely. So what was the point for him to
live as a human anymore? You can really tell by the description of his room, proper
for a human being, only somewhat to small, lay quietly between four well-known
walls. Above the table, on which an unpacked collection of sample cloth goods was
spread out,(pg1) he lived in very uncomfortable conditions and was in very
enclosed spaces. This leads me to think that it was not some destiny or fate that led
Gregor to becoming a cockroach, but it was through actions. Whether they were
accidental or intentional.

My god, he thought, what a strenuous profession Ive chosen! Traveling day in

and day out. The turmoil of business is much greater that in the home office, and on
top of that Im subjected to this torment of traveling, to the worries about train
connections, the bad meals at irregular hours, an intercourse with people that
constantly changes, never lasts, never becomes cordial. The devil take it all! (Kafka
12) He hates his job and is unhappy with his life, but his personal choice to continue
with it day after day has resulted in his transformation.
Franz Kafkas Metamorphosis is a tale of warning of what may befall you if you do
not live by the existentialist belief that you must take charge of your own life and
live by your free will. You will wake up one day to find yourself trapped in a life you
do not enjoy and are not appreciated in. Despite the fact existentialist had no
religious beliefs, their principles are advice to avoid living in ones personal hell.
Once reading The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, the practise of existentialism is
better defined and easier to understand because of the parallels between the two.
Existentialists believe a person is at their best when struggling against their
individual nature, fighting for life. A humans individual nature includes, but is not
limited to, their gender, age and religious and cultural beliefs. When you have a
conflict that forces you to fight for those rights and those morals that you believe in,
mankind prospers and succeeds as an individual. Kafka recognizes this when his
protagonist fights for his human abilities and what he morally feels compelled to do.
When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found
himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. From the moment he awoke
all he thinks about is his job. He realizes that he has changed and he is not himself
but he is determined to try and continue his life by doing what he believes is right;
going to work to support his family. Once he becomes a bug, Gregor is obviously
fighting for his life, a life he knew. And at first (like the existentialists believe) he
was stronger, he had a stronger will to fight and to live. After he struggles to have
his family understand him in his new form and they do not accept him, he gives into
his new situation and lets his new life take over and control him, he stops his fight
for life. Kafka also follows the existentialism philosophy of personal responsibility
and discipline is crucial. This is shown through Gregor trying to get out of bed to go
to work to support his family; responsibility. His discipline is shown through him
staying in his room suffering while he can hear his family outside the door trying to
continue their lives but suffering over the loss of their son. Gregor goes against his
nature by stopping all forms of communication with is family, and when his sister
brings him food, Gregor hides under a blanket to help his sister not feel pain from
looking at him in his new form. There are many more parallels between Franz
Kafkas The Metamorphosis and existentialism philosophy that most all deal with
Gregor fighting between his human life and his transformed life and figuring out
how to survive that change.
1. After having discussed and taken notes on existentialism, I found that I was
able to gain a better understanding of The Metamorphosis and of Kafkas
reasoning behind the novella. Initially, Gregor was portrayed as someone who
did not reflect the characteristics of an existentialist in any way. He allowed
his job and his family to control him, and he never had any free will or sense
of choice in his life. Gregor also only ever believed that there was one truth
and one main goal or purpose in his life. He believed that working for his
employer and supporting his family was what he was meant to do in life. He
was always too focussed on his responsibility to his family to ever worry
about himself. I think that Kafka used Gregors character as a foil to
demonstrate his own personal beliefs and outlook on life. Gregor honestly
thought that wealth, pleasure, and honour for being the provider of his family
would automatically guarantee him the good life. Through his
transformation he was able to see things from a different perspective
(literally and metaphorically). Even when he turned into a cockroach he took
personal responsibility for what happened, an important characteristic of
existentialism. He even excused the familys behaviour and reactions due to
the fact that, it was precisely all the uncertainty that was oppressing the
others(Kafka 17). Essentially, it was Gregors family who dehumanised him.
While I believe that his parents, sister, boss, and co-workers all contributed to
his downfall, it was the familys selfishness and lack of responsibility that
turned him into a mere object. After everything he had done for them, they
neglected him and took away everything that allowed him to hold onto his
humanity. By constantly conforming to what his parents and employer
wanted, and allowing them to dictate his behaviour, his life became
unsatisfying and devoid of meaning. While Gregors life was slowly
deteriorating, the family was given a second chance, and through their sons
transformation, they developed a new and meaningful outlook on life. As
Kafka was a strong believer in existentialism, I think that he used this novella
to explore and examine Gregors existence, and how it was seemingly
inconsequential. The story was concerned with Gregors ability to find not
only his self, but his true purpose in life. Although having Gregor turn into a
cockroach may not have made very much sense at the time, I believe it was
Kafkas intention to show the reader that not everything in life is rational or
easily explained. Overall, I believe that the novella was simply a way for
Kafka to reflect upon his beliefs and his own life values. I think that, through
Gregor and Gregors family, Kafka was able to portray what it means to
discover the true meaning of life, and how, it is not always easy to find your
allyhemphill said this on October 27, 2009 at 9:55 PM | Reply

2. According to the faithful words of Wikipedia Existentialism is a term that has

been applied to the work of a number of nineteenth and twentieth century
philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, generally held that
the focus of philosophical thought should be to deal with the emotions,
actions, responsibilities, and thoughts of the individual person and his or her
conditions of existence. Kafkas Metamorphosis has many existentialism
qualities to it, however I do not think Kafka wanted to portray Metamorphosis
in that manner. Even though Gregor was suddenly turned into a disgusting
bug, Gregor was determined to live his life to the fullest. Gregor was forced to
live by himself, dependant on no one. This is essentially existentialism.
Gregor pushed himself slowly towards the door, with the help of the easy
chair, let go of it there, threw himself against the door, held himself upright
against itthe balls of his tiny limbs had a little sticky stuff on themand
rested there momentarily from his exertion. Then he made an effort to turn
the key in the lock with his mouth. This passage descripts the challenges
that Gregor faced while trying to accomplish a simple act for a human,
opening a door, however Gregor accomplished this act, by himself, with no
one to help him. His own actions depicted the journey that he would take for
the rest of his life. He really did not know what he should rescue first. Then
he saw hanging conspicuously on the wall, which was otherwise already
empty, the picture of the woman dressed in nothing but fur. He quickly
scurried up over it and pressed himself against the glass which held it in
place and which made his hot abdomen feel good. At least this picture, which
Gregor at the moment completely concealed, surely no one would now take
away. Closer to the end of the novella, Gregor lashes out, when his mother
and sister start clearing out his room, so that he would be free to climb the
walls. However this upsets Gregor and he scurries onto a picture on the wall.
This action proved to his mother and his sister that he wanted to protect his
belongings. Even though Gregor was a unfortunately turned into a bug, he
still lived his life to the fullest. He proved to live his life through the rules of
Kaam ki
Existentialism is a twentieth-century philosophy concerned with finding one-self and
the meaning of life through free-will, choice and personal responsibility. People
determine who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on
their experiences, beliefs and outlook. Franz Kafka was one of the first Existentialist
writers and this philosophy is present in his novella, The Metamorphosis. One of the
postulates of the philosophy is that there are things that are not rational and
perhaps the most obvious example in Kafkas novella is Gregors inexplicable
transformation into an insect. The philosophy also includes many other concepts;
one of which being how personal responsibility and discipline are crucial. The
protagonist in The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, doesnt like his job, but he works
very hard to pay off his fathers debts and support his family. By transforming into
an insect, Kafka also, however, implies that his work has lead to dehumanization
and, in the end, death. When we start treating humans as inanimate objects, the
results are disastrous. Kafka relays how, in our compulsion for work, we are getting
out of touch with each other. Gregor comments on the absurdities of his job while
lying in bed: What a strenuous profession Ive chosen! Traveling day in and day
out Im subjected to an intercourse with people that constantly changes, never
lasts, never becomes cordial. The devil take it all! (Kafka, 11) This aspect of
Existentialism states that society is unnatural and its traditional religious and
secular rules are arbitrary and how societys ways, in general, arent always the
correct way of doing things. Another aspect of the philosophy is that human nature
is chosen through life choices. While Gregor is physically an insect, he doesnt want
to behave like one, and he chooses to behave like a human and keep his room as it
was when he was human: Nothing must be removed, everything must stay; he
couldnt do without the beneficent effects of the furniture on his well-being; and if
the furniture prevented him from going on with that mindless crawling around, that
was no disadvantage, but a great asset. (Kafka, 34) This concept of Existentialism
states that there are individuals apart from their community but they insist on
remaining to their true natures. There is another aspect in the novella that is an
aspect of the philosophy. While the story was sad, the end provides for a brighter
future for the family: And they took it as a confirmation of their new dreams and
good intentions when, at the end of their ride, their daughter stood up first and
stretched her young body (Kafka, 52). Although Kafka suggests that humans and
the society in which they live are becoming less and less personal, an optimistic
future is possible if individuals stop and examine themselves and their relationships
with other people; a staple in the Existentialist philosophy.
As I was not present for the lecture, my response is based upon the note Ms. Cox
sent me. I think that the novella and the meaning behind existentialism are very
closely related. Gregor Samsa was a great believer of personal responsibility,
however he did not exercise his free will. Everything he did was for the benefit of his
family and not for himself. A sense of the tradition of family loyalty is present in
Gregor, which is anti-existentialist. The family lives very lavishly, also anti-
existentialist, and Gregor supports this lifestyle despite their disregard of him. They
even forget to feed him, I do have an appetite, but not for those things. How these
lodgers pack it away, and Im perishing! (Kafka, 44). Because Gregor spends so
much time focusing on his familys needs, he does not search for his true self.
Gregor suffers the fate of becoming a cockroach, and some would say this is him
being dehumanized and reduced to being an object. While a cockroach is not
necessarily an object, it is by no means human. Gregors boss even says, that was
an animals voice. (Kafka, 19). Existentialism does not says that life is easy nor that
it is completely satisfying, but by obeying the philosophies of existentialism one will
have meaning in his/her life. Gregor Samsa did not do this. He was corrupt by
society and completely un-individual. Therefore, he is the opposite of existentialism.
I feel that Gregors family also had a choice to make that relates to existentialism.
They realized that, because of Gregors transformation, he would no longer be able
to support them. So, they could have chosen to bring new meaning to their life, and
start supporting themselves. They had the chance to overcome their own obstacles
and start a fresh chapter in their life. Instead, they wallowed in their own self pity,
wondering only how Gregor could have abandoned them and left them with nothing.
Both Gregor and his family had choices to make about the future of their lives. They
could have chosen to create purpose in their lives, and live happily despite the
obstacles they faced. Sadly, they didnt realize this, and Gregor nor his family were
unable to find meaning in their new lives.
Existentialism is all about the study of existence, how humans find themselves
existing in the world, and the meaning of life. Existentialists accomplish this through
acts of free will, choice, and personal responsibility. I feel that everyone has the
power to achieve what they wish to achieve, and that only you alone can create
your own fate through the choices that you make. In The Metamorphosis, I believe
that Gregor had some qualities of an existentialist, but only in his mind. He initially
had good intentions; he wanted to do things that were based solely upon his
decisions. For example, he wished that he could just stand up to his boss and his
parents. Yet he never acted upon these thoughts because he let himself be
controlled by almost everyone. He even gave up on life because he overheard his
family talking about killing him. I feel that Gregor was transformed into an insect of
all things, because the nature of Gregor was that similar of a bug: he obeyed orders,
and was living almost emotionless. Gregor never made time for himself; he devoted
his life to his work, similar to insects. They are industrious and hard working
creatures, their sole purpose in life is to work. Gregors existence was exactly like
the existence of an insect. I believe he wanted the readers to understand that if you let others decide your
life, your existence is simply the same existence of an insect.


Throughout The Metamorphosis, the universe seems to be continually sending jabs

Gregors way. First, in Part I, the office manager shows up at precisely the worst
time for no good reason at all. In Part II, it is revealed that Gregors tireless pre-
metamorphosis travails were somewhat unnecessary, for his father had hoarded a
respectable financial cushion. Later, in Part III, the arrival of the new cleaning lady
and the boarders causes him further anguish and catalyzes his demise. As he
depicts Gregor as a victim of an unpredictable but generally unkind world, Kafka
develops the existentialist view that the universe is indifferent to the existence and
condition of the individual. The most predominant theme of Gregors life as an
insect is isolation not only is the universe indifferent to his existence, but so are
the people who (maybe) once loved and cared about him. Initially, isolation is a
natural consequence of his familys aversion to seeing his arthropodic physique.
Gregor is happy to oblige his family, reasoning that they are [already] suffering
enough (25). As time goes on and the concept of Gregor as a family member and
human being fades, his familys indifference and fear morph into outward hostility.
Gregors commitment to his family, however, remains strong: from the first to the
last day of his saga, their welfare and happiness remains infinitely more important
to him than his own. Even hours before he is to die, a weakened Gregor strains for a
way to inform his sister that no one here appreciated her playing the way he would
appreciate it (49) His familys total failure to reciprocate his concerned feelings
contributes to the overall feeling of hopelessness in the book and ultimately leads to
his death. Gregor Samsa dies of loneliness. In an existentialist world where the
individual is the fundamental building block and where one finds ones own
meaning, he chose live for his family. His life utterly loses meaning once he cannot
provide for (or otherwise coexist with) them. Kafkas portrayal of Gregors death is
one of a solitary individual surrendering to the universe.
After all, if he no longer has any reason to exist, then why should he? Throughout
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka presents existentialism to the reader by depicting
Gregors bizarre transformation, his familys loss of care for him, and the gradual
departure of all meaning from his life. The continual presence of absurdity
emphasizes the existentialist idea that live is given no intrinsic meaning or purpose
by the world. Elements of hopelessness also feature prominently, particularly
towards the end of the novella as Gregors family utterly rejects him. In Gregors
quiet death, we see a powerful manifestation of the existentialist principle that the
individual gives their own meaning to life. Even his final act is for the happiness of
his family: towards the end of his life, they had repeatedly wished that he would
disappear and stop causing them distress. Camus said that in order to exist just
once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist. Gregor will never again
exist, but even his final act is at least partially committed for the sake of others. The
core existentialist tragedy exploited by Kafka is this: not once does Gregor exist for


Beginning with its first sentence, The Metamorphosis deals with an absurd, or
wildly irrational, event, which in itself suggests that the story operates in a
random, chaotic universe. The absurd event is Gregors waking up to discover
he has turned into a giant insect, and since its so far beyond the boundaries
of a natural occurrenceits not just unlikely to happen, its physically
impossibleGregors metamorphosis takes on a supernatural significance.
Also notable is the fact that the story never explains Gregors transformation.
It never implies, for instance, that Gregors change is the result of any
particular cause, such as punishment for some misbehavior. On the contrary,
by all evidence Gregor has been a good son and brother, taking a job he
dislikes so that he can provide for them and planning to pay for his sister to
study music at the conservatory. There is no indication that Gregor deserves
his fate. Rather, the story and all the members of the Samsa family treat the
event as a random occurrence, like catching an illness. All these elements
together give the story a distinct overtone of absurdity and suggest a universe
that functions without any governing system of order and justice.

The responses of the various characters add to this sense of absurdity,

specifically because they seem almost as absurd as Gregors transformation
itself. The characters are unusually calm and unquestioning, and most dont
act particularly surprised by the event. (The notable exception is the Samsas
first maid, who begs to be fired.) Even Gregor panics only at the thought of
getting in trouble at work, not at the realization that he is physically altered,
and he makes no efforts to determine what caused the change or how to fix it.
He worries instead about commonplace problems, like what makes him feel
physically comfortable. In fact, the other characters in the story generally treat
the metamorphosis as something unusual and disgusting, but not
exceptionally horrifying or impossible, and they mostly focusing on adapting to
it rather than fleeing from Gregor or trying to cure him. Gregors family, for
example, doesnt seek out any help or advice, and they appear to feel more
ashamed and disgusted than shocked. Their second maid also shows no
surprise when she discovers Gregor, and when the boarders staying with the
family see Gregor they are mostly upset that Gregor is unclean and disturbs
the sense of order they desire in the house. These unusual reactions
contribute to the absurdity of the story, but they also imply that the characters
to some degree expect, or at least are not surprised by, absurdity in their


Gregors transformation completely alters his outward appearance, but it

leaves his mind unchanged, creating a discord, or lack of harmony, between
his mind and body. When he first gets out of his bed after waking, for instance,
he tries to stand upright, even though his body is not suited to being upright.
He also thinks of going to work, despite the fact that he cant by any means do
so, and when Grete leaves him the milk at the beginning of Part 2, he is
surprised to find he doesnt like it, even though milk was a favorite drink when
he was human. In essence, he continues to think with a human mind, but
because his body is no longer human, he is unable at first to reconcile these
two parts of himself.

As Gregor becomes accustomed to his new body, his mind begins to change
in accordance with his physical needs and desires. Yet hes never able to fully
bring his mind and body into harmony. Gregor gradually behaves more and
more like an insect, not only craving different foods than he did when he was
human, but also beginning to prefer tight, dark spaces, like the area under his
sofa, and enjoying crawling on the walls and ceiling. (Through these details,
the story suggests that our physical lives shape and direct our mental lives,
not the other way around.) But Gregors humanity never disappears entirely,
and he feels conflicted as a result. This conflict reaches its climax when Grete
and the mother move the furniture out of Gregors room. Gregor initially
approves of the idea because it will make his room more comfortable for him
physically. Without furniture, hell be able to crawl anywhere he pleases. But
realizing that his possessions, which represent to him his former life as a
human, provide him emotional comfort, he suddenly faces a choice: he can be
physically comfortable or emotionally comfortable, but not both. In other
words, his mind and body remain opposed to one another. Gregor, unable to
relinquish his humanity, chooses emotional comfort, leading him to
desperately cling to the picture of the woman in furs.


After Gregors metamorphosis, his family members struggle with feelings of

both sympathy and revulsion toward him. Grete and the mother in particular
feel a great deal of sympathy for Gregor after his change, apparently because
they suspect some aspect of his humanity remains despite his appearance.
This sympathy leads Grete initially to take on the role of Gregors caretaker
she even goes so far as to try to discover what food he likes after his change
and it leads the mother to fight with Grete over moving the furniture out of
Gregors room since she holds out hope that he will return to his human form.
Even the father, who shows the least sympathy of the family members toward
Gregor and even attacks him twice, never suggests that they kill him or force
him out of the house. Instead, he implicitly shows compassion for Gregor by
allowing the family to care for him.
Eventually, however, the stresses caused by Gregors presence wear down
the family members sympathy, and even the most caring of them find that
their sympathy has a limit. One of those sources of stress is Gregors
appearance. Grete is so upset and revolted by the way he looks that she can
hardly stand to be in the room with him, and his mother is so horrified when
she sees him as she and Grete are moving his furniture that she faints. In
addition, Gregors presence is never forgotten in the house, causing the family
members to feel constantly uncomfortable and leading them to speak to each
other mostly in whispers. Moreover, the fact that Gregor cannot communicate
his thoughts and feelings to them leaves them without any connection to his
human side, and consequently, they come to see him more and more as an
actual insect. All these factors combined steadily work against their sympathy,
and the family reaches a point where Gregors presence is too much to bear.
Significantly, it is Grete, the character to show the most sympathy toward
Gregor, who decides they must get rid of him.


Perhaps the greatest consequence of Gregors metamorphosis is the

psychological distance it creates between Gregor and those around him.
Gregors change makes him literally and emotionally separate from his family
membersindeed, from humanity in generaland 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, Gregors 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 Gregors metamorphosis
can be viewed as an extension of the alienation he already felt as a person.
Good analysis
Existentialism is a philosophy dealing with man's aloneness in the universe. Either
there is no God or else God stands apart from man, leaving him free will to make his
own choices. From this basic idea of man being alone in an uncertain and
purposeless world, many related ideas have developed. One great worry of
existentialist writers is that life is becoming too complicated and too impersonal.
People become more and more involved with their work, which is taking them away
from their friends, family, and culture. However, these provide the only "meaning"
that life could possibly have. One author prominently known for his work with
existential ideas was Franz Kafka. Kafka, who wrote from the mid-1910's until the
early 1920's, took the ideas of existentialism and interwove them so well into his
novels and short stories that they became a trademark of his writing. Two of his
stories are good examples of this philosophy: The Metamorphosis and "The Hunger

In The Metamorphosis, Gregor, the protagonist, works as a salesman. He doesn't

like his job but works very hard, making his job his life. When he wakes up one
morning having turned into a dung beetle (or perhaps a cockroach?) during the
night, he thinks only about how he is going to get to work, not how it happened or
what he can do about it. The hunger artist is also completely dedicated to his job,
which is fasting. To him it is an art, one which he works at day and night. All of his
thoughts focus on how he can improve himself. At the end of forty days (which was
the fasting limit set by his manager), he always asks himself, "Why stop now when
[I am] in [my] best fasting form . . . ?" (3). This demonstrates that for the hunger
artist, work is so much of a compulsion that he cannot stop doing it, as he tells the
overseer at the circus while dying.
Kafka also uses the existential idea that man's fate is sometimes beyond man's
control. In his stories, chance or destiny rules man's life. Gregor could not control
his metamorphosis, just as he cannot control his "new" legs which "waved
helplessly before his eyes" (1). The hunger artist's fate is to die of starvation, since
as he says, "I have to fast, I can't help it" (8). Gregor dies; the artist dies. Their lack
of control over their fates emphasizes man's helplessness and "forlornness," to use
Sartre's term.
Kafka uses existentialism through Gregor's consequences and struggle in dealing
with being a bug. Gregor Samsa makes the choice to stay in a job he hates, because
he feels it is the neccessary thing to do. What he doesn't see is that his choice to be
so unhappy for such a long time causes him to reap the unwanted effects,
becoming a bug. Gregor's manager says his "productivity has...been very
unsatifactory" Gregor is failing at his job, but keeps going every single day. He
ignores the human need for social interaction, working long hard days, and is turned
into an insect. Mainly as a metaphoric symbol of his lack of humanity. Gregor's
isolation within himself, caused him to be a victim of existentialism, because he is
trapped in a non-human body. Gregor is shut off from any communication, and
Kafka wanted Gregor to be in position like that to exaggerate him having to fight to
seem normal. Gregor has to fight to act like a human being, struggling to do
everyday human tasks. Gregor "once again saw his small limbs fighting one
another...he told himself again that he could not possibly remain in bed and that it
might be the most reasonable thing to sacrifice everything" and that he must get
"himself out of bed in the process." Getting out of bed might seem like a simple
task, however any movement for Gregor is a burden for him. He has to use all the
strength he has in doing something that shouldn't be difficult at all.
Because Gregor chooses to devote his life to work in order to support his family, he
fails to develop a sense of individuality, and once he develops is forced to focus on
himself because of his situation, his family becomes angry with him because he is to
selfish to realize he plagues them. Gregor has worked his whole life supporting his
family which explains why Kafka compares him to an insect, also one who chooses a
life of work for the good of the colony Once his family is forced to support
themselves, they realize that Gregor is no longer a necessary component to their
survival. They become angry by Gregors selfish behavior, reasoning that if it were
really Gregor trapped in a body of a bug, he would have realized that communal
life among human beings is not possible with such a creature and would have gone
away long ago. Existentialism is how ones choices affect one's future.
Gregor exemplifies existentialism through his ignorance of human needs, his
persistent unhappiness and the denial of his insect state.
Kafka shows his non-rational style of writing in Metamorphosis through Gregor's
character as he struggles living in a bug's body.
Ironically, it was only after Gregor is transformed into a bug that his family begins to
be proud of what they do and get jobs.
Also, after Gregor changed into an insect, he finally became happy and began to
enjoy life. Least You Need to Know Gregor "could get no new information directly, he
did hear a good deal from the room next door, and as soon as he heard voices, he
scurried right away to the appropriate door and pressed his entire body agianst it."
When Gregor turns into a bug, he is forced to examine his life as a working drone.
He soon realizes that he can no longer do anything to support his family and
chooses to spend more time on his own, doing things that make him happy.
Existentialism is the questioning of ones existence and the result that accompanies
ones choices. Because of gregors decision to live a life of two different extremes to
such an extent that he becomes an unhappy, conformed drone, he dies a lonely,
miserable death only after his whole family, he made the decision for, turns against