How do Gregor's feelings for his family change over the course of The Metamorphosis?
Initially in the story, Gregor demonstrates the profound responsibility that he feels toward his family. His feelings seem to be largely based on his belief that his family is incapable of taking care of themselves. For example, he believes that they cannot work because his father is too old, his mother is too frail, and his sister is too young. Thus, he works arduously at a job that he hates. As Gregor’s thoughts reveal:
“If I didn’t hold back for my parents’ sake, I would’ve quit ages ago. I would’ve gone to the boss and told him just what I think from the bottom...
(The entire section contains 387 words.)
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When Franz Kafka's Gregor awakes one day to find himself "transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect," he does not immediately seem to grasp what has happened (89). Indeed, he attempts to go about his day as if he is simply ill by sleeping a bit longer and perhaps calling in sick. This attitude of normalizing his condition to the normal rhythm of life in the Samsa household pervades much of the novel. Gregor is the primary money earner of his family and has grown accustomed to sacrificing himself for their needs. As such, he is concerned for much of the story with minimizing fallout of his transformation for the family. At first, that means doing his best to return to work and family life. Only when a clerk comes by to see what has kept him from making it to work does Gregor realize the predicament he is in: he can no longer speak, and his appearance is revolting to others, including his family. Gregor thus enters the second phase of his "metamorphosis," so to speak, in attitude toward his family. He hides in his room, cowering under a couch whenever his sister enters to feed him, and otherwise tries to keep from burdening his family. As his physical conditions become more and more revolting to the family, his father, especially, becomes increasingly hostile toward him, culminating in a scene in which Mr. Samsa throws fruit at Gregor, eventually striking him in the back and causing what would prove to be a fatal wound. Gregor retreats, determined not to cause any further trouble. As his family begins to care for him less, leaving his room dirty and even the apple stuck in his back, Gregor becomes somewhat resentful. He takes to listening to every word and movement of the family from a safe distance until one day, overtaken by his sister Greta's violin playing, he runs out of his room, revealing himself to the boarders the family has had to take on to support themselves. This transgression proves to be the last straw, and his sister pushes her father to rid the family of Gregor. Gregor decides, however, that he will do it for them. Kafka writes, "The decision that he must disappear was one that he held to even more strongly than his sister, if that were possible" (135). Gregor settles down and dies, therefore, so that his family may move on and thrive without him.
In other words, Gregor consistently seeks to do what is best for his family. What changes is his perception of what is best: 1) returning to life and work as normal; 2) minimizing his presence in the family; and 3) dying so that his family may grow from his sacrifice.
Kafka, Franz. "The Metamorphosis." Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories. New York: Schocken, 1971. 89-139.