In The Metamorphosis, what upon discovery first gives Gregor joy, then causes him distress?

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hmassman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question! In the story “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, Gregor experiences a profound transformation from human to bug. As a result of this transformation, he is unable to enjoy some of the things that he used to love.

One example of this is the food that Gregor consumed. After his transformation, Gregor’s sister made his favorite meal (a bowl with sweetened milk and pieces of white bread) for him. At first, he was extremely excited about this kind gesture. However, he soon realizes that this favorite food was difficult to consume. Not only this, but the milk, which he used to love, was not desirable to his new taste palate.  As the story illustrates, 

“But he soon drew it back again in disappointment, not just because it was difficult for him to eat on account of his delicate left side (he could eat only if his entire panting body worked in a coordinated way), but also because the milk, which otherwise was his favorite drink and which his sister had certainly placed there for that reason, did not appeal to him at all.”

Thus, his physical changes impacted Gregor’s personal preferences. Although he previously enjoyed the meal his sister prepared for him, Gregor no longer enjoys it due to his transformation. Thus, his joy quickly transforms into distress once he realizes how his change impacted his taste.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After what can best be described as a horrible morning, Gregor discovers that his sister has left a bowl of food for him in the hallway. It is a bowl of bread soaked in sweetened milk.

He almost laughed with joy, for he now had a much greater hunger than in the morning, and he immediately dipped his head almost up to and over his eyes down into the milk.

However, whatever joy Gregor felt at this discovery soon disappears, as he finds it very hard to consume the dish as a bug. He also discovers, much to his chagrin, that he does not have a taste for milk anymore. What once appealed to him as a human no longer does. This incident immediately precedes Gregor's realization that his family, heretofore quite comfortable on his salary as a traveling salesman, will struggle to make it now that he is unable to work. Thus, he realizes, almost at once, the profound consequences of his transformation. "All contentment," he fears, might "come to a horrible end." Even the most basic comforts are no longer available to him, and he fears that they will soon be unavailable to his family as well. His family, in fact, comes to see him as a burden now that he is no longer able to provide for them.

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The Metamorphosis

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