Why did Gregor turn into a bug in The Metamorphosis and what were some benefits of this change?

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Gregor lives a bug’s life well before his actual transformation. As a traveling salesman, he does not put down roots; as a devoted son, he does not live his own life.

Gregor is driven to work furiously to pay back his parents’ debt. Everything he does is for them. When...

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Gregor lives a bug’s life well before his actual transformation. As a traveling salesman, he does not put down roots; as a devoted son, he does not live his own life.

Gregor is driven to work furiously to pay back his parents’ debt. Everything he does is for them. When he first transforms, he shows no concern for himself but instead worries about catching the train for work. “It wasn’t a dream” he concludes, yet he still does not react to seeing himself as a giant insect—perhaps because he does not actually see truth. Gregor seems quite capable of ignoring reality. He repeatedly attempts to get out of bed without addressing the “armour-like back…brown belly…[and] many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him.” Work is the only important matter; he reflects that he has never missed a day of work in 15 years. In fact, the chief clerk shows up to check on Gregor when he does not show up.

Gregor has no real, personal connections in his life. There is no companion to share with. On his wall hangs a framed picture of a beautiful woman—but the picture was torn out of a magazine. There is no real person’s picture that Gregor would like to keep in a frame in his room. He has no social life at all; in the week Gregor has been in town, he has not gone out once. Also, while Gregor feels a connection to his family members, they merely rely on him to take care of them. When he first transforms, no one else in the household has a job. Losing Gregor’s salary is the driving force to make the others move when they previously had not been able to do so.

For instance, his father suddenly has the strength to work when before he was quite frail and content to allow his son to completely shoulder the burden of his debt. While Gregor may have felt close to his sister and mother, their revulsion to his metamorphosis prevents any connection now. Additionally, no friends are mentioned because Gregor has not had the need to make any. He meets so many people as he travels but he does not connect with anyone.

It is appropriate that Gregor’s human form is taken away from him and replaced with that of a bug. He has not been living a life but has been merely a drone going through the motions.

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Gregor's life in the years prior to physically turning into a bug was not very fulfilling. His job as a salesman is especially demoralizing and, for that matter, dehumanizing. On the morning he wakes up as a bug, he thinks,

Oh God [...], what a grueling job I've picked! Day in, day out—on the road. The upset of doing business is much worse than the actual business in the home office, and, besides, I've got the torture of traveling, worrying about changing trains, eating miserable food at all hours, constantly seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate.

Gregor has no opportunities to form satisfying relationships, certainly no time for intimate ones; he doesn't even get to eat food that he enjoys. In short, his job means that he doesn't have time for some of the things that bring human beings their greatest enjoyment in life. His boss is terrible, always talking down to his employees, and making them feel like dirt. Gregor "was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone." Even Gregor's mother thinks that his life is pretty sad. She tells his manager, "That boy has nothing on his mind but the business. It's almost begun to rile me that he never goes out nights." Even his mom thinks he's kind of a loser, with no life of his own. He has been, in many ways, the human equivalent of a bug: all he does is work, he is pretty much only valued for his ability to work, and he really doesn't have much—if any—identity outside of work. He's like a worker ant.

Therefore, even before Gregor's physical transformation, he's essentially already made a mental transformation. He lost the easy confidence he had when he was a soldier; instead, he's become weak and disempowered, like a bug. It only remains for him to physically transform into what he's already become in his own mind. In fact, it's possible Gregor doesn't actually physically transform at all; maybe it's all in his own mind as a result of the dehumanization he's endured for years.

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There certainly doesn't seem to be any benefits for Gregor to have turned into a bug in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis."  He dies.  He also suffers alienation, disrespect, and neglect from his family, the chief clerk from where he works, and the lodgers.  For a time, he does adapt to being a bug and enjoys climbing on walls, etc., but this doesn't last long.  Gregor is a victim, although of what no one is sure.

The story opens:

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

There is no explanation as to why he was changed.  This leads many commentators to view the fictional world in the story as absurd, in the literary sense.  Is happenstance at work?  Chance?  It would seem so. 

Concerning his family, they do get jobs to support themselves and seem to be ready to cope with having to work by the end of the story, but I see them mostly as having been exposed by Gregor's transformation.  Other editors may disagree.

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