What is Gregor astonished to discover about his body? Explain the significance.

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hmassman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, Gregor discovers that his human body has transformed into a bug’s body. Although there are numerous interesting and different components about his transformation, Gregor frequently considers his new “diminutive” legs throughout the story.

When he first awakes, Gregor realizes that his body has transformed. Despite his “monstrous” body, his legs appear quite small. As the story itself shows:

“His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.”

Despite this realization, Gregor seems to ignore his transformation and focuses on his daily problems. For example, Gregor begins to consider his work situation, his boss, and his family’s financial dependence on him.

After desperately trying to continue behaving like a human, Gregor’s attempts fail. Consequently, he lands on his tiny legs and for the first time since his transformation, he feels:

“a general physical well being. The small limbs had firm floor under them; they obeyed perfectly, as he noticed to his joy, and strove to carry him forward in the direction he wanted. Right away he believed that the final amelioration of all his suffering was immediately at hand”

Thus, Gregor finally stops trying to function as a human and accepts his physical transformation. Although he continues to struggle with this change throughout the story, this moment illustrates the beginning of his acceptance of the transformation. It also reveals that his life must change due to his metamorphosis.

As a result, Gregor’s “diminutive” legs illustrate the change that his metamorphosis incites. Although Gregor at first believes that everything will remain the same, his transformation does not tolerate this belief. Thus, Gregor accepts his change and learns how to accommodate his new physicality.