illustration of a giant insect with the outline of a man in a suit standing within the confines of the insect

The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka

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In Kafka's The Metamorphosis, how does the family react to Gregor's death?

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The Samsa family in The Metamorphosis by Franza Kafka, seems to respond to Gregor's death as with relief, and … hope.

The mother and daughter hug one another. The father demands some attention, which the mother and daughter promptly give.

They decided to spend this day in resting, and going for a stroll; they had not only deserved such a respite from work, but absolutely needed it.

This is ironic because no such respite was ever afforded Gregor. In fact, on the day he has transformed, everyone was at his door telling him to go to work, but now these three who seem to find time every day to rest, also "deserve" a break, and intend to go for a stroll— unheard of in this story. However at this point, each writes a note of excuse as to why he or she will not be attending work that day.

There is an odd behavior on the part of the women and Mr. Samsa. All of a sudden, they seem very close. When the charwoman comes in to take her leave, she declares that the "thing" next door has been disposed of. She stands prepared to offer details, but Mr. Samsa stops her, and she leaves in a huff.

…neither from his wife nor his daughter did he get any answer, for the charwoman seemed to have shattered again the composure they had barely achieved. They rose, went to the window and stayed there, clasping each other tight.

It is hard to understand how Grete has had any need to "achieve" composure when so recently she demanded that they get rid of Gregor. Mrs. Samsa seems a weak woman who has accepted the loss of her son easier than one might think, unless she has long since stopped thinking of him as her son…by why, then, the need for barely achieved composure?

The family finally takes a tram, which is bathed in sunlight, symbolic of hope. They sit back and speak of their jobs, and realize that the jobs are good and hold promise for improvement in the future. Of course, if Gregor had not "changed," none would have left the house to find work—for all the years Gregor suffered through his job, no one else had lifted a hand. They start to plan: they will get a smaller and cheaper apartment, something better than what Gregor had chosen. This will at last remove the final "essence" of Gregor from their lives, as if they never knew him.

The parents are simultaneously struck by the thought that Grete has grown to a marriageable age, and they exchange knowing glances. And in that moment... was like a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when, as they reached their destination of their trip, the daughter rose up first and stretched her young body.

Some sources suggest that the family may have changed for the moment out of necessity, but if "old habits die hard," it may well be that if Grete marries the "right" young man, he may take Gregor's place, working and supporting the family, while they remain at home, once again living a life of leisure. It might be important to remember what is said about good intentions: that the road to hell is paved with them. It may be with this hope, that the future looks so good to the Samsa family.

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In Kafka's The Metamorphosis, what role does Gregor's family play in his secondary metamorphosis?

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In Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Gregor begins to go through a second transformation or metamorphosis, and this is based completely upon how his family treats him.

When Gregor went out to work and supported the rest of the family, no one had any complaints. They were satisfied (though seemingly not grateful) that he paid the bills which allowed Gregor's sister and parents to live at home comfortably—and unemployed. However, when it becomes impossible for Gregor to go to work when he is turned into a giant insect (and it really is the only thing that stops him...because he tries for some time after he wakes to figure out how he can catch the train...), the family starts to look at Gregor very differently.

At first, Grete tries to find foods that he will eat and shows some concern for her brother. After a while, however, this changes. Grete becomes empowered by her brother's tragic circumstances. Ultimately, she stops cleaning in his room and even puts odd furniture and junk in there, which greatly upsets Gregor. This is the beginning of Gregor's demise. Gregor is not allowed out of his room. In fact, the one time he comes out and scares his mother, Grete throws accusations about her brother's behavior before their father, and he throws apples at Gregor, seriously wounding him:

He had filled his pockets from the fruit bowl on the credenza, and now, without aiming precisely, threw apple after apple...One direct hit that flew immediately afterward penetrated Gregor's back; Gregor wanted to drag himself a little further, as if the unexpected and unbelievable pain would go away with a change of position, and yet he felt like he was nailed down and stretched out...

The apple remains lodged in his back for the remainder of Gregor's life. The lack of support from his father and sister is devastating to Gregor. And as much as his mother would like to be supportive of him, she is unable to handle what he has become—she suffers from ill-health and seeming overwrought nerves. However, the moment when Gregor gives up his struggle to survive arrives when his sister (who once dearly loved him) betrays him to the father and mother, insisting that he must go. They have all become independent; they have realized in Gregor's "illness" what they never chose to see when he was well: that had always been capable of helping so Gregor might not have had to work so hard. Now they don't need him at all. In Chapter Three, Grete says:

“Dearest parents...this can go no further... I will not pronounce the name of my brother in the presence of this monster...we must be rid of it. We have attempted every method humanly possible to serve and tolerate it...He must be sent away, that is the only way. You just have to try to banish the thought that it's Gregor. ”

For Gregor, there is nothing to live for—no hope. He returns, without being tormented, to his room. As he slowly enters, Grete runs to slam and lock the door in triumph.

“And now?” Gregor asked himself as he looked around in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer even budge. 

In pain, and lacking all energy, Gregor fades and dies early in the morning. No reason for his death is ever given, but one can assume his heart has been broken—at the hands of his family.

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