Sample Essay Outlines
The Metamorphosis is a richly layered and textured story that is open to many interpretations, that is, religious, philosophical, autobiographical, Freudian, and mythical, to name a few. The following paper topics contain a thesis statement, and an outline should be used to stimulate your thinking and writing about the story.
The term metamorphosis means a complete and profound change in form, structure, and substance or a change in form from one stage to the next in the life of an organism. The central change in The Metamorphosis is the change in Gregor’s life, from an ordinary man and traveling salesman to a gigantic insect. Gregor’s transformation causes other remarkable changes in the story—changes that directly bear on his family. Write a paper that shows how Gregor’s major change in life also affects the lives of his parents and sister.
I. Thesis Statement: Change is the essence of life, and in The Metamorphosis, the theme of change is organic to the action, dictating the unfolding of the plot and influencing the characters’ behavior and destiny.
II. Initial change in Gregor’s life: his metamorphosis into a gigantic insect and the thoughts, reflections, and feelings this profound change causes in him on the first day.
A. Gregor’s conscious awareness that he has become an insect and the thoughts and feelings this discovery evoke in him
B. The familiar sights and objects in Gregor’s room and how these objects are contrasted to the extreme circumstances he finds himself in
C. Gregor’s chief concern, his job; the fact that he’s missed his early morning train, and his fear that someone from his office may come to check on him
D. The response of the chief clerk and his parents as he shows himself to them for the first time
III. Second change in Gregor’s life: his adjustment to his new body, to his new life as an insect
A. Recognizing the limitations of his body; his loss of appetite for milk, his private feelings for his sister
B. Feelings of guilt and sorrow when he overhears his father discussing the family’s plight and financial situation
C. The effect the removal of his furniture has on his spirit; changes in Grete as she cares for him
D. How Gregor’s helplessness affects Mr. Samsa and how this changes the balance of power in the house
E. Gregor’s futile attempt to placate his father’s anger and his hapless retreat to his room when he is being bombarded with apples
F. His mother’s desperate screams and pleas to spare Gregor’s life when she runs to her husband
IV. Third change in Gregor’s life and in that of his family: complete reversal of family roles, that is, the family no longer depends on Gregor for their support, while Gregor must now depend on his family for his survival
A. The different jobs the family takes to earn money
B. Grete’s increasing ambivalence toward Gregor
C. Gregor’s decline in health; his slide into disintegration and decay
D. The domino effect the three lodgers have on the plot and on Gregor’s fate
V. The change in the family fortunes after Gregor’s death
A. Hope and renewal symbolized by the coming of spring, the warm sunshine in the train, Grete’s youthful, attractive body
B. Grete’s own metamorphosis into a young, beautiful eligible bride
Other short stories have been written in which the central character’s dying and death have a lasting effect on those around him or her. One such story is Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych (1884). Compare and contrast the two stories, focusing on how the protagonist of each story, Gregor Samsa and Ivan Ilych, affect their families through their strange illnesses.
I. Thesis Statement: Both Gregor Samsa and Ivan Ilych share the same unfortunate fate in that both suffer an irreversible illness that deeply affects their families’ lives.
II. Gregor Samsa and Ivan Ilych: their lives compared and contrasted before and after their illnesses
A. Gregor’s life as a traveling salesman and Ivan Ilych’s life as a...
(The entire section is 1,493 words.)