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In "The Metamorphosis" by Kafka, is he using animals or nature to show an evolution in...

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cdeeneedham | Valedictorian

Posted April 1, 2013 at 6:52 PM via web

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In "The Metamorphosis" by Kafka, is he using animals or nature to show an evolution in the nightmare of Gregor Samsa or is it the opposite: Is he becoming more of a conscious being as he begins life as a bug or is he becoming less and less human? 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 1, 2013 at 10:17 PM (Answer #1)

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This story can be interpreted in a number of ways, so the short answer to the question is that Gregor's metamorphosis suggests both meanings: that his transformation reveals the brutal nature of humanity and that the transformation reveals the potential escape from that brutal existence. In other words, it is a bleak story, but there are moments when Gregor, as the insect, experiences enlightened, if not happy, moments because in being the insect, he is freed from his hated life as a traveling salesman burdened with being the provider for his family. Gregor had been the one to take care of his family. Now, as a helpless insect, they have to take care of him. Aside from his sister, they dont' do a great job of it, but the fact is that his transformation revealed that potential, that those who treated him so poorly were at least capable of showing compassion. Again, it is a bleak tale, Gregor becoming less human, but has hints of hope that his transformation yields moments of humanity. 

As Gregor's insect existence continues, he becomes more "human" (conscious of humanity and those around him) because he becomes a more astute observer. Since he can not communicate, he spends most of his time listening. On the other hand, he feels less human in being unable to communicate. And when his father injures him and his sister essentially gives up on him, he does slip further away from that humanity. The reader might be more sympathetic toward Gregor in his insect form, but he/she (reader) might also be more repulsed. So, it's not just a question of how Gregor feels (more or less human) as the insect; it's also a question of how his family (and the reader) feels toward him in that respect. Do we see him as more or less human, or both?

When Gregor's mother and sister are discussing whether or not to remove the furniture in his room, they are still repulsed by him but also looking to make things better for him. This also symbolizes Gregor's own confusion. Is his humanity greater since his transformation; his family is going to greater efforts to make accommodations for him. Or, is he becoming further removed from humanity: 

Did he really want his warm room, so comfortably fitted with old family furniture, to be turned into a naked den in which he would certainly be able to crawl unhampered in all directions but at the price of shedding simultaneously all recollection of his human background? 

As there is no solid answer to the question of whether Gregor becomes more or less human as he continues to live as a bug, one implication is that it takes a transformation of this kind to raise questions about the state of humanity. Had Gregor continued with the reluctant acceptance of his monotonous job, nothing would have changed. This metamorphosis at least presented an opportunity to disrupt his, and his family's, acceptance of their seemingly dull, arduous lives. In the end, Gregor accepts his separation from his family (or, he accepts his eventual death). Even this can be interpreted in these opposing ways; it can be read as the ultimate selfless humane act or as the ultimate escape from humanity. 

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