1. Is Gregor's death satisfactory? 2. Discuss the transformation. What does it represent and reveal about Gregor's life? 3. Discuss Gregor's relationship with his family.

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hmassman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting questions! In Franz Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis” the unusual events and attitudes incite numerous questions in the readers’ minds. Although the book was first published over a hundred years ago, questions still remain about the characters and events in “The Metamorphosis.” For example, some readers still discuss Gregor’s transformation, his relationship with his family, and even his death.

Beginning with Gregor’s transformation, Gregor suddenly transformed from a human into a bug. When Gregor awoke one morning, he discovered that he had transformed overnight. Although this startling and monolithic transformation would have shocked numerous individuals, Gregor appeared to merely continue with his day, focusing on the stress of work and other daily struggles. As his own thoughts reveal:

“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.”

This reaction to the transformation illustrates Gregor’s profound focus on the providing for his family. He had lost his sight of enjoying life or even his own self-worth. Instead, he prioritized his life around work and providing for his family.

Throughout the story, it is revealed that Gregor provided for his family. Although he despised his job, he continued to work to meet his family’s financial needs. Despite this concern for his family’s well-being, Gregor failed to demonstrate a closeness with his family. For example, he did not realize some of the more intimate knowledge about his loved ones, such as their true financial situation and their ability for self-independence. As Gregor’s thoughts reveal, he believed that his father was too old, his mother was too frail, and his sister was too young to work. However, when Gregor was no longer able to work, they all started working and expressed their own independence. As the text reveals:

"Gregor found out clearly enough (for his father tended to repeat himself often in his explanations, partly because he had not personally concerned himself with these matters for a long time now, and partly also because his mother did not understand everything right away the first time) that, in spite all bad luck, a fortune, although a very small one, was available from the old times, which the interest (which had not been touched) had in the intervening time gradually allowed to increase a little. Furthermore, in addition to this, the money which Gregor had brought home every month (he had kept only a few florins for himself) had not been completely spent and had grown into a small capital amount."

Lastly, readers have argued about Gregor’s death for many years. Although his death seems rather abrupt, there are other factors to consider. Foremost, Gregor did not seem to value his own life. At the story’s beginning, Gregor was not concerned about his own transformation or its impact on him, but rather he focused on supporting his family and his job. Thus, when he realized that he was a burden to his family, he no longer had a desire to live. As the text explains:

“But Gregor did not have any notion of wishing to create problems for anyone and certainly not for his sister.”

Thus, after he realized this, Gregor passed away. His injuries and lack of nourishment, which had been ignored, finally stopped aching and he slipped into a state of peace. As the text illustrates:

“The rotten apple in his back and the inflamed surrounding area, entirely covered with white dust, he hardly noticed. He remembered his family with deep feeling and love. In this business, his own thought that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three o’clock in the morning. From the window he witnessed the beginning of the general dawning outside. Then without willing it, his head sank all the way down, and from his nostrils flowed out weakly out his last breath."

Therefore, Gregor’s life and death incite numerous questions into the readers’ minds. However, when considering the book’s entirety, the ending provides a fairly satisfactory death for Gregor. Throughout his life, he supported his family to the point of neglecting himself and (after realizing his burden on the family) he offered the same sacrifice in his death.