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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What does Gregor's transformation symbolize?

In The Metamorphosis, Gregor's transformation into an insect symbolizes his dehumanization. He is not valued for himself but for the money he can earn for his employer and family. He finds no meaning in his job but simply toils like an insect.

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Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to gradually realize he has turned into a giant insect. He has six little legs that wave around in the air and an armored back. Since he is lying on his back, if he lifts his head he can see his brown, domed belly, split into six sections. Although he tries many times, he can't manage to roll over on his side.

Gregor's transformation is a symbol of how he has been dehumanized by his job and family. He is treated more like an insect than a human being, so he becomes an insect. His new outward form represents how he feels on the inside.

Gregor hates his job: like an ant, he endlessly toils at stressful, unsatisfying labor. He is a traveling salesman, a lifestyle that undermines his health because he never gets enough sleep. He also eats poorly on the road. He feels alienated from society because he is always meeting different people rather than establishing meaningful relationships.

His family uses Gregor as a breadwinner. He is paying off his parents' debts and supporting his sister. They do not love or value him for himself but for the money that he brings in, and they quickly turn on him once he can no longer go to work.

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