What insect did Gregor turn into?

The insect that Gregor turned into is likely a dung beetle, but specific descriptions of the insect can differ between different translations. The narrator mentions several physical characteristics that seem reminiscent of a cockroach, but the charwoman calls Gregor a dung beetle. It is not certain whether her identification is correct.

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In The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka describes the extreme physical transformation that Gregor Samsa experiences. However, the third-person narrator who tells the story does not actually specify the type of insect into which Gregor has been transformed. The narrator states that Gregor turned into “some monstrous kind of vermin” and...

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In The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka describes the extreme physical transformation that Gregor Samsa experiences. However, the third-person narrator who tells the story does not actually specify the type of insect into which Gregor has been transformed. The narrator states that Gregor turned into “some monstrous kind of vermin” and mentions numerous features associated with a beetle or a cockroach. It is the charwoman who enters to clean the room who addresses Gregor as an “old dung-beetle.” Kafka’s decision not to be more definite seems consistent with the story's overall surrealism. Because the reader is forced to use their imagination, they are free to conjure up an insect they find as revolting as Gregor's family members do.

Among the key features that the narrator mentions are the insect’s shape and the relationship between the legs and body. Once Gregor has turned onto his back, he finds it nearly impossible to right himself. Another important characteristic is the insect’s ability to climb walls. These features are consistent with a beetle or similarly shaped bug.

Kafka’s omission of definite identification is also consistent with the interpretation that the episode may be Gregor’s fantasy or dream. Gregor’s family members find his physical form so disgusting that they both attack and neglect him. Their treatment of him seems to mirror his existing low self-esteem, which is perhaps expressed by his imagining himself as physically repulsive and trapped in an unwanted form.

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