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The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka
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What is the significance of the view from Gregor’s window?

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In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, protagonist Gregor Samsa famously wakes up as a giant beetle. On the first day that Gregor wakes up, he looks out the window and both sees the rain and hears it on the metal window ledge. He notices the dreary view from the window...

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In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, protagonist Gregor Samsa famously wakes up as a giant beetle. On the first day that Gregor wakes up, he looks out the window and both sees the rain and hears it on the metal window ledge. He notices the dreary view from the window before he even notices his transformation. As he looks out the window, Gregor also thinks about how he fears his boss and hates his job. The metal fixture on the window represents the post-industrial age that Gregor inhabits and corresponds to the fact that he feels alienated and exploited at his job.

The view from the window is one which features a gray sky and gray earth, which is symbolic of Gregor’s pre-transformation disposition. After he becomes a beetle, Gregor notices that he can no longer look out the window with the same perspective (i.e., he cannot stand up). This suggests the uniquely tragic circumstance in which Gregor finds himself; he never particularly enjoyed the view outside, though now, as a beetle, Gregor is robbed even of this despondent view. Nevertheless, he continues to look out the window, which is symbolic as a means of escape (if only a mental escape).

Affirming the window’s symbolism as an escape is that Gregor’s family members flock to it at various points in the novel. In particular, Gregor’s mother runs to the window when she is in his room, despite the fact that it is cold out. Likewise, Gregor’s sister opens the window to prevent herself from feeling suffocated. Both are trying to cope with Gregor’s transformation, and the window is a crutch for them. The fact that Gregor only looks out of the window while the others open it symbolizes Gregor’s extreme level of entrapment. He is physically trapped and demoralized in his condition as a beetle.

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As Gregor tries to get himself up and moving after he has turned into a giant bug, feeling that he cannot possibly allow himself to simply remain in bed, the narrator says,

he directed his gaze as precisely as he could toward the window, but unfortunately there was little confident cheer to be had from a glance at the morning mist, which concealed even the other side of the narrow street.

Gregor's view of what is just outside his window is confined by the rain, blocked and incomplete. This is the way his life has felt ever since he took the job as a salesman. Although it seems that he was once confident and self-assured when he was a soldier, now, Gregor has no time for relationships or hobbies because he is always on the road, always working. His work has completely limited his ability to live a satisfying or fulfilling life, just as the rain and mist now limit his view outside. He has felt confined and incomplete in his own life ever since he became a salesman, and his view reflects this feeling.

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The window of Gregor's room is actually mentioned towards the beginning of the story, when Gregor wakes up and becomes aware of his hideous transformation. As the majority of the action of this story takes place in Gregor's room, what he can actually see through his window is going to be important in terms of setting the tone and the mood of the novel. Note what the text tells us about the window:

Gregor's eyes then focused on the window, and the dismal weather--raindrops could be heard splattering on the metal ledge--made him feel quite melancholy.

Note the way that this operates as a pathetic fallacy, for, even before his transformation, Gregor's life was rather "dismal." It is no wonder therefore that the weather enacts his mood and his impressions of life by its dismal nature, making him feel quite "melancholy" because of the grey, oppressive rain that can be heard "splattering" on the ledge.

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