I just finished reading Franz Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung,” translated into “The Metamorphosis” by Stanley Corngold. Before I even started reading it, I’d told my classmate about how it seemed like a weird one — something I’d deduced from its synopsis — and he’d responded with “Franz Kafka’s works tend to be.”
Now that I’m done with it, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. For one, it was incredibly short. Like I knew it was a short story but I’d still been expecting it to be longer. Then there comes the fact that (SPOILER ALERT)
I was expecting everything to turn out all right at the end; not only did it not have a happy ending but it ended about as abruptly as it can get. One moment it appeared that things were finally gonna get interesting and teh next moment everything had already happened — so quickly that one would think that the author had been asked to clear out his apartment for not having paid his rent, resulting in him quickly concluding and publishing his ongoing work.
Maybe there’s supposed to be some deeper meaning behind it and I know for a fact that over the years, countless people have made attempts to explain how we all can relate to Gregor’s condition and how it’s all just another analogy symbolizing various aspects of life.
Gregor’s helplessness in the initial part of the story, I believe, is something we can all relate to. Gregor is described as a man with a mediocre life who isn’t content with the way things are, but for the sake of his dependents, tolerates it for as long as he has to. We see Gregor desperately wanting to go to work and to not disappoint his boss and we see how he’s genuinely concerned about how the slightest misfortune could affect the life of his family and it’s clear that Gregor is not without wants but it is also clear that he’s got his priorities right.
As the story progresses, we see how Gregor’s family grows to despise him and how they’re repulsed at the very sight of him and the irony is that we see them become about as monstrous and disgusting their treatment of him as the monster he’s become. That’s what it’s like to be underappreciated and taken for granted. The day Gregor ceased to be of help and went from being the dependable to the dependent, they lost all love and/or respect for him and near the end of the story, were determined to believe that the bug they’d been dealing with wasn’t Gregor so that it’d be easy to get rid of him. The worst part? When he dies, they barely seem to miss him and actually heave sighs of relief. His sudden transformation into the bug could be about how catastrophic and sudden change can be. When you come to think of it, all that really changed was one attribute of his life, but that started a chain reaction and everything went haywire.
His inability to speak, and therefore communicate, symbolizes our own inability to express our feelings. Sometimes we suppress them, like how Gregor’s consideration for his family prevented him from doing virtually anything that he’d could upset them. At other times, we try to communicate but indirectly, like how Gregor tried to get Crete to notice the dirty parts of his room by standing in it and waiting for her to notice. And every once in a while, we’re misunderstood, like Grete taking Gregor’s wall crawling to mean that he’d prefer an emptier room.
His death following Grete’s outburst suggests that you can’t survive where you’re not wanted. The hint at the incestuous fantasies could symbolize the fact that we all have our own share of dark and disturbing secrets. It’s funny how everyone was disgusted by Gregor without even knowing his worst secret which could be hinting at how we all get what we all truly deserve although I don’t really believe Gregor deserved any of that.