In, "The Metamorphosis", how do Gregor's feelings towards his family change over the course of the story?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Early on, Gregor feels that his sister, Grete, is worrying unnecessarily.  He thinks that "[he] was still here and hadn't the slightest intention of letting the family down."  Gregor sees himself as the thing that has kept the family afloat all this time, and he feels an obligation to get everything back on track with his job.  He only begins to learn after his metamorphosis that the family's situation was not as dire as he believed it to be.  He sees, on the first day of his changed self, that "the breakfast dishes were laid out lavishly on the table" and that several newspapers were laid out for his father to read.  Also, he sees how late his family gets to sleep and becomes newly aware that neither his parents nor his sister have to work.

Later on, Gregor learns that his father has actually been saving some of the money that he has brought home.  "Of course he actually could have paid off more of his father's debt to the boss with this extra money, and the day on which he could have gotten rid of his job would have been much closer, but now things were undoubtedly better the way his father had arranged them."  Despite the fact that Gregor's father has, essentially, cheated him out of time, Gregor is not angry.  If anything, he now admires his father more as a result of his father's foresight.  Now, though, instead of feeling vital to his family's success, he begins to feel "hot with shame and grief" whenever they begin to talk about the need to earn money.

Soon after, Gregor's family begins to view him as more and more of a burden, and this affects the way Gregor views himself.  "Who in this overworked and exhausted family had time to worry about Gregor any more than was absolutely necessary?"  Gregor feels conflicted in regard to their treatment and irritability.  At times Gregor feels badly, and "at other times he was in no mood to worry about his family, he was completely filled with rage at his miserable treatment."  Gregor feels himself changing as a result of his family's treatment, though "it hardly surprised him that lately he was showing so little consideration for the others; once such consideration had been his greatest pride."  There are lots of ways in which Gregor's feelings toward his family have changed.

gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gregor has a complex and conflicted relationship with his family. When the story opens, we see that his family are dependent on his salary, and therefore he feels very anxious to live up to his responsibilities and not do anything to jeopardise his job. However, when he turns so inexplicably into a giant insect, he can no longer do this and feels shame and guilt that he can't help his family any longer.

Along with this, though, he also feels gratitude when his sister helps him out in his new, strange condition. She does her best to look after him, and his mother, too, still seems emotionally attached to him. It is a different matter with his father, however; evidently the relationship between the two has always been difficult. (This reflects Kafka's strained relationship with his own father.)

As time goes on, however, and Gregor becomes weaker and more immobile, the situation with his family also deteriorates, and he starts to feel neglected by them. As he remains trapped in his room, even his sister ends up wholly resenting him, seeing him no longer as her brother, but as a monstrous burden on all the family. Gregor, too, comes to accept this opinion, and eventually wills himself to die, feeling that it will be a relief both to himself and his family. He still feels enough affection for them that he wants to perform this last self-sacrifice for them:

 He remembered his family with deep feelings of love. In this business, his own thought that he had to disappear, was, if anything, even more decisive than his sister's.

Certainly the family seem to experience a feeling of deep release after his death. This is the most troubling aspect of the story: the implication that the family are ultimately better off without Gregor. 

Read the study guide:
The Metamorphosis

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