The Metamorphosis is a novella about a man named Gregor Samsa, who works a modest but exhausting job as a traveling salesman and provides for his family. One day, Gregor wakes up and realizes that he's been turned into a giant bug. This absurd shift in narrative reveals the monotony and loneliness of Gregor's life, although upon first read, the change is seemingly meaningless. However, the reader soon realizes that changing into a bug says more about the human condition and the meaning of happiness than meets the eye.
While Gregor’s relentless work schedule allows his family a comfortable lifestyle, it has left Gregor himself unable to pursue anything that might make him happy. Already dehumanized and isolated by his job, Gregor is at first hardly surprised or bothered by his transformation into an insect. Yet the feelings of loneliness, rejection, and worry he experiences in his new form, as well as the love he continues to feel toward his neglectful family, reveals that the core of Gregor’s humanity remains intact—even when his sister refers to him as “it.” It is human connection, the text suggests, that makes life bearable; denied this, Gregor resolves to fade away.
As readers peel back the layers of the text, starting with the grotesque spectacle Gregor becomes, they begin to realize that in a way, we are all Gregor. Gregor becomes a cockroach-like bug, but his mind is still much the same. Deep down, he still identifies with his old life, and while he may look different (and terrifying), he's still Gregor.
Gregor’s family tries to care for him at first, but eventually even Grete's patience runs thin. There is simply no way for them to relate to Gregor anymore, they believe, and no way for Gregor to relate to the world around him anymore, either—even though he shares many of the same thoughts, feelings, and concerns as they do. This could be related to anyone attempting to fit into a hostile society. Whatever their differences, everyone experiences the need for connection and affection, and the pain of rejection and loneliness, that characterize the human condition.
Unfortunately for Gregor, his exterior, like many in this world, causes those around him to judge and close their hearts to his inner world. He is simply too different, and not only different, but repellent. In turn, Gregor becomes literally isolated in his room and existentially isolated in his mind.
One question remains during the early period after Gregor’s transformation: is Gregor happy in his new life? He hated his job and the lack of trust from his boss, and it seems now that Gregor enjoys his lack of obligation and care for an outside world that never really cared about him. Looking at the novella through an absurdist lens, one could say that Gregor's misfortune is actually a gift, as it allows Gregor to accept the fact that life has no meaning or purpose. This acceptance could perhaps allow Gregor to find peace, as he is finally free from society's shackles and no longer has to conform or play the role he so desperately wanted to escape. In the end, however, his family members’ rejection of him now that he can no longer work is too much to bear, and Gregor starves himself to death rather than continue on as an unwanted burden to them.