illustration of a giant insect with the outline of a man in a suit standing within the confines of the insect

The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka

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How does Gregor's family's treatment of him change after his metamorphosis?

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While Gregor's family never cares for him, they at least treat him like a human before his change; after his change, they're increasingly cruel and distant.

Gregor's family puts up with him before his metamorphosis because he takes over as the provider for his family. The relationship between them isn't...

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warm, but at least they give him some respect so that he'll continue paying for them to live. When they think he's going to be late to work, they check to make sure he goes. Even though his father doesn't work, he still has a warning in his voice when he tries to get his son up.

Later, however, they start to treat him worse. His father chases him back into the room with a newspaper. He eventually injures him by throwing a piece of fruit at him that causes an infection. His parents and sister are all now working and getting an income since he can't anymore.

Even Grete is eventually unsympathetic to her brother. She was likely the family member he was closest to, but caring for him is a burden to her. She eventually tells her parents she wants them to get rid of Gregor. He decides that dying is the best thing he can do for them, and he does.

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Before his metamorphosis, Gregor is exploited by his family as he is the only one who works; afterwards, when he changes and can no longer work, they become cruel and are repulsed by him because of his hideous appearance and because he is a disgrace to his family.

An absurdly comical meditation upon the human state of alienation, guilt, and insufficiency, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a bizarre tale of a young man who transforms into a bug in which apples hurled at him stick in his casing and he is imprisoned in his own room. Georg Samka awakens into a surrealistic dream world, and he receives little sympathy from anyone, even though he has sacrificed for years his own desires so that his sister can attend the Conservatory and study music.

Yet, his transformation may also be due to his desires to be freed of the responsibilities that should be his father's, his hatred for his job and the drudgery attached to it, and his resentment for the rest of the family's exploitation of him and their irresponsibility in not contributing to the family income.

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How does Gregor's family feel about the metamorphosis?

Gregor lives with his mother, father, and sister (Grete). One morning, he wakes up and realizes that he has transformed into a bug. As he ponders what to do, his family comes to his door, reminding him that it is time to get up and start his day. Because he does not get out of bed, he is late for work. The chief clerk comes to his house to question why he did not leave on the early train. Through all of this, Gregor's mother insists that Gregor is sick, and the chief clerk insists that, whether sick or not, business and work are priorities.

Finally, Gregor decides to try to get out of bed, although he is a giant bug. He has been talking with with his family and the chief clerk through the door but has not tried to get out of his bed until now. After he falls from the bed, he tries to talk to his family and the chief clerk, but this time he makes mere bug noises:

"Quick, get the doctor. Did you hear the way Gregor spoke just now?"

"That was the voice of an animal", said the chief clerk, with a calmness that was in contrast with his mother's screams.

Immediately, the house is in an uproar as they try to find out how to get to Gregor. (And, they haven't even seen his bug-self yet.)

After great effort, Gregor manages to open the door. Upon seeing him, the chief clerk shouts out, "oh!" and his family responds with even greater shock:

Gregor's mother, her hair still dishevelled . . . unfolded her arms, took two steps forward towards Gregor and sank down onto the floor into her skirts . . . His father looked hostile, and clenched his fists as if wanting to knock Gregor back into his room

His mother goes into a state of immediate shock, falling down in weakness as she witnesses Gregor in his bug form. His father grows angry, with his fists clenched, as he aggressively urges Gregor back to the confines of his room. The chief clerk storms out of the building looking afraid, and Gregor retreats to his bedroom.

The only kindness Gregor receives after his transformation is from his sister. When he wakes up from his deep sleep he finds a plate of food:

By the door there was a dish filled with sweetened milk with little pieces of white bread floating in it. He was so pleased he almost laughed, as he was even hungrier than he had been that morning . . . . But he soon drew his head back again in disappointment . . . the milk did not taste at all nice.

Gregor leaves the food where it was placed; as a bug, Gregor is much more interested in rotten foods than fresh foods. Gregor's sister soon realizes this and begins to bring him the rotten, smelly foods that he desires. Immediately after his transformation, Grete attempts to show Gregor kindness.

However, as the novella continues, Grete grows less patient with Gregor and her kind acts change. First she neglects him; later, her growing anger and frustration becomes evident. She tells her father:

It's got to go . . . that's the only way, Father. You've got to get rid of the idea that that's Gregor. We've only harmed ourselves by believing it for so long.

Gregor, once the financial provider and leader of his household, is transformed into a helpless creature who depends on others for his survival. He loses his job and seemingly loses the affections of his mother and father upon his transformation into a bug. When he remains a bug, even his sister stops showing him kindness. Grete, meanwhile, goes through her own sort of metamorphosis from a carefree young lady with plenty of leisure time to practice her violin to a woman called upon to help provide for her family's finances.

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