Society often works against itself in one way or another. In
reading Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka one could presume the work to
be a social criticism. Throughout this story Kafka shows how
society can be split into into different sections, with Gregor
representing the working man at the time, and his family
representing all the other kinds of people throughout society.
This story shows how Gregor has worked for his family in the
past, and how he subconsciously thought he had control over them.
He works at an intolerable job of hard work to support his family,
and gets little respect for this. It shows what happens to him
when he stops working for them, he transforms into a huge
cockroach. He is rejected by his family, and he is not cared for
properly which results in his death. Following Gregors death is a
gleeful ending, which eventually implies that the cycle will be
repeated, though this time through his sister.
It is apparent even in the first sentence ³As Gregor awoke
one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into
a gigantic insect² (P862, Ph1) that Kafka meant something
underneath the surface. Awakening from uneasy dreams could mean
awakening from an uneasy, labored life by quitting it all. His
transformation could mean how society can compare him to a
cockroach for his giving up on them and treat him as if he was
less than human.
Gregor has obviously had a life of hard labor at a job that
he finds to be unbearable; as he states ³Oh, God what an
exhausting job I¹ve picked² (P862 Ph4). He feels that he must
work though. He feels that his family is incapable of supporting
themselves. His mother has asthma, his father is old, and his
sister is very young. As it turns out though, in the end, his
family was perfectly capable of supporting themselves; In fact
his father had been saving up money the entire time. In reading
this first portion of the story one would be led to believe that
Kafka is making a statement of how the working man feels that his
life, and others would be in jeopardy if he were to stop working.
Maybe Kafka is representing Gregors family as the lower class.
Once Gregor gives up working for his family he finds himself
transformed into a big ugly cockroach, the lowest form of life.
It¹s clear why gregor gave up working for his family when he turns
the key to the door and says ³They should have called out Œkeep
going, turn that key!¹² (P868 Ph3) what he needed were words of
encouragement, words he never received. This could plausibly be a
metaphor that the working people in society are way overworked,
and get very little respect for it.
It is obvious that Gregor appears disgusting to others that
see him when the chief clerk runs away at first glimpse of him.
This is his punishment for not working. His grotesque figure
represents what he thinks people think of him. In a way this is
saying, When the working man, stops working he believes people
will very him as a disgusting figure one that can do nothing but
live off of others.
At this point Gregor¹s position, and respect in the household
decrease rapidly to a point of near nonexistence. He can¹t even
talk to people, this is established earlier on in the story when
The chief clerk says ³that was no human voice² (P867 Ph4). His
family locks him in his room, and feeds him old rotting food.
They completely desert him, and try to move on with their lives.
Gregor at this point experiences feelings of lost empathy, and
longs to communicate with others. This could represent the
working mans fear of poverty, it has been established that when
the working man quits he becomes a disgusting creature in his and
everyone¹s eyes; now that¹s not the main fear in the working man,
it¹s loss of being cared for, and loss of communication in being
poor, dependent, and powerless. His not being able to speak
represents the lower class man¹s being silenced. How his family
gives up on him, and deserts him is how society gives up on the
poor, or the homeless.
Throughout Gregors life as a cockroach, he finds himself to
be treated more like an animal each day, like being served ³a
piece of cheese that he would have called uneatable²(P873 Ph1).
He even finds himself to be acting like an animal, ³he quickly
devours the cheese²(P873 Ph1). He appears to have given up on
life. He is not cared for properly, and eventually withers away,
and dies. This shows how society doesn¹t really care about the
working man. In fact, it shows how society couldn¹t care less if
he died, in fact it would brighten up their day. Even his own
mother says ³¹now thanks be to god¹² (P890 Ph2) upon first
discovery of the body.
In the end though, after Gregors death the mood suddenly
changes from gloom to glory, a surprising twist of what one would
think. The mood is peaceful, they family goes out on a stroll.
Everyone appears to be in a good mood. The double twist is when
Gregors father looks at Grete, and thought of the kind of man she
could marry. This is actually a funny ending because it shows
just how horrible Gregors family really is. All they can think of
is who will fill Gregors shoes as a care taker for them. This is
symbolic of what society thinks of the average working man. They
use you, abuse you, throw you away, and then ask for seconds; ³It
was like a confirmation of their new dreams, and excellent
intentions that at the end of their long journey their daughter
sprang to her feet and stretched her young body²(P892 Ph1).
I believe that the overall moral to the story is how society
should give much more credit to people who keep the world running,
and that life should not be all about work, silence, and
punishment. I also think it is about society¹s moralities, and
how they have reduced to such a despicable level, I think Kafka
It should now be clear that Kafka shows how society can be
split into into different sections, with Gregor representing the
working man at the time, and his family representing all the other
kinds of people throughout society. Society often works against
itself in one way or another.