The Metamorphosis Questions and Answers
by Franz Kafka

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Why was Gregor Samsa transformed in an insect? Why was Gregor Samsa transformed in an insect? Did he die? What will be a great thesis?

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is no reason given for Gregor Samsa's transformation. The opening lines are as much explanation as is ever given; the characters in the book show less surprise at the actual event and more disgust that Gregor is a giant insect. The metamorphosis itself is simply a given; there is no justification, or any reason that Gregor's human mind remains intact. Even Gregor himself is not so worried about the change:

"This getting up early," he thought, "makes one completely idiotic. A man must have his sleep. Other travelers live like harem women."

One implication is that his transformation is simply another joke played by an uncaring universe. Gregor is unhappy at home and at his job; despite his optimism that his hard work will change his status, he believes in determinism, and thinks that he will never truly escape from his position. In that case, his physical change is simply a representation of his mental state; he thinks of himself as a drone of the state and of his job, and so he becomes an insect, which operates in a hive-mind and has no autonomy of its own.

Another possibility is that he is transformed because the plot demands it. In other words, Gregor is a pawn of the author as much as of anyone else; he changes physically because otherwise, there would be no story. Here, the needs of narrative intrude on Gregor's reality and alter him as necessary.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Kafka introduces the story as Gregor wakes up as a bug.  One of the best aspects of the story is that the narrator never does directly say "and this is why Gregor became an insect," leaving the reader to draw inferences from their own perspective.  Certainly, Gregor's unhappiness with his current situation raises some red flags; his job stresses him out. 

“Oh God,” he thought, “what a strenuous occupation I've chosen! Always on the road, day out, day in. The rigors of the job are much greater than if I were working locally, and, furthermore, the nuisances of traveling are always imposed upon me...

He has not done very well for himself as a salesman, and his in-debt family seems very dependent on him.  Gregor's unfortunate transformation does have the positive side-effect of relieving him of responsibility.  He probably wished he could be free from his burdens; well, now he can.  As a bug, all he has to do is crawl around all day, and in turn, his family now feels the pressure to take care of themselves. 

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gregor is a travelling salesman, and not a happy one.

AS GREGOR SAMSA awoke one morning out of restless dreams, he found himself in bed, transformed into a gargantuan pest. (ch 1, p. 4)

When Gregor is transformed, it forces him to re-evaluate his life.  It is what we would call a "wake-up call" or perhaps a mid-life crisis.  Instead of buying a red convertible, Gregor becomes a giant bug.  Either way, he needs to stop and think about his life and where he is, and take a personal inventory.

Turning Gregor into a bug also forces the reader to stop and think about life differently, and maybe think about his or her own life. I think you could argue that this was definitely Kafka's goal.

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