Gregor understandably doesn’t react well to his transformation at first. His new body is entirely different and therefore takes some getting used to. It is interesting that Gregor does not directly question his transformation, but immediately focuses on how he is going to deal with it, which comes across as...
Gregor understandably doesn’t react well to his transformation at first. His new body is entirely different and therefore takes some getting used to. It is interesting that Gregor does not directly question his transformation, but immediately focuses on how he is going to deal with it, which comes across as surprising to the reader.
Firstly, Gregor struggles physically and practically with his transformation, failing to perform even the simplest of tasks, such as moving, walking, and eating. For example, he must open the door with his mouth and is unable to get out of bed or walk at first due to the fact his “many legs ... flickered helplessly before his eyes.” Another key difference Gregor must adapt to is the fact he cannot talk. His voice is completely transformed:
Gregor was startled when he heard his own voice in reply; no doubt, it was unmistakably his previous voice, but merging into it as though from low down came an uncontrollable, painful squealing which allowed his words to remain articulate literally for only a moment.
As such, Gregor must adapt not only to his physical changes but also to the fact that he cannot communicate:
His speech had not been understood.
This lack of communication causes many issues for Gregor and makes it impossible for him to explain his situation or understand what is happening to him.
There are many interpretations about what Gregor’s transformation might mean. One argument is that Gregor’s adaption to his new body is a metaphor for the struggle of injured soldiers returning from World War I and the difficulties they faced in adapting to their new bodies. This argument is supported by the historical context of this text, which was written during World War I, and also the fact that Kafka himself was involved in the establishment of a psychiatric hospital for veterans and victims of shell shock, suggesting that he had a personal insight regarding the impact of warfare on soldiers. In the text, it is made explicit that Gregor himself participated in military service:
a photograph of Gregor from his time in the reserve hung on the wall, showing him as a lieutenant ... smiling light-heartedly, demanding respect for his stance and uniform.
Elsewhere in the text, Gregor is described as having an “armor-like back” and is compared to a “disabled veteran.” This is just one interpretation of what Gregor’s adaption to his new body might symbolize, but it is worth considering.
Although Gregor does not react well to his transformation at first, he gets used to his new form surprisingly quickly and seems almost relieved. We might interpret Gregor’s transformation as a metaphor for his rejection of the “human” aspects of his life. This includes aspects of normal human life such as work, family, money, and responsibility. His life as a traveling salesman is depicted as being mundane and alienating. Even when Gregor realizes he has transformed into an insect, his first thoughts regard his lateness to work. The fact he is so stressed and frightened about work shows us how much pressure he is under at his workplace. Gregor is a classic example of someone who is trapped in a job that is not fulfilling. He continues working due to money and pressure from his family; he is unhappy due to external societal pressures and expectations.
As an insect, however, Gregor can spend his days sleeping and eating, and he does not have to worry as much about these human problems. Perhaps Gregor’s transformation is a result of the intense pressure he has been under for the past five years, during which he has been the sole provider for his family. Before his transformation, Gregor is depended on by his whole family, but as an insect, Gregor is dependent on others. As such, in his insect form, there is significantly less pressure on him. In this sense, his life as an insect might be bringing him more satisfaction than his previous life.
This being said, Gregor’s life as an insect is shown to be similarly miserable and bleak. Although his new form offers him an escape from societal pressures and responsibilities, his insect body is seen as grotesque, meaning he is met with disgust and rejection by everyone who encounters him. Gregor internalizes this shame, and “burn[s] with shame and sorrow.” After reading about his life as an insect, the reader is left with a feeling of hopelessness, sadness, and pity. He is rejected by his family and entirely isolated, and he even suffers physical violence from his own father. Compounding this is the fact that he cannot talk, meaning that he becomes entirely secluded and isolated from any sense of community or human warmth. As such, Gregor is no happier than he was in his old life. This is part of what makes The Metamorphosis so bleak, as Gregor cannot find happiness or peace in either of his forms.