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 do Gregor’s parents view their children in The Metamorphosis?

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Mr. and Mrs. Samsa’s view of their children has to be analyzed before and after Gregor’s transformation, especially in Gregor’s case. While the reader doesn’t meet the family until after Gregor’s transformation, Kafka indicates that Gregor’s parents primarily valued Gregor for his financial role in the household. Gregor’s first interaction with one of his parents in “The Metamorphosis” is with his mother, who is concerned that Gregor hasn’t left for work yet. Compare his mother’s inquiry about getting to work with his sister asking if there is anything wrong: his parent is worried about Gregor getting to a job, while his sister is asking about Gregor’s health. It is worth reviewing the text and finding Gregor’s own descriptions of his parents. What does Gregor say about his parents’ role in his staying at a stressful, unrewarding job?

Once Gregor’s parents realize that he has changed into an insect, they usually act with confusion and disgust in the few instances when they directly acknowledge Gregor. In conversations about Gregor, they seem frustrated that the family has lost its breadwinner and annoyed that Mr. Samsa has to get a job. Note once again how Gregor’s parents consider Gregor primarily in terms of his productive value rather than expressing concern about their son’s transformation. Grete is once again kinder to Gregor, bringing him food and even moving furniture to give him more space to move around.

Gregor’s parents primarily see their children in practical terms. Gregor is/was the financial support, and Grete is there to help with household chores, including caring for Gregor in his strange new body. Grete, both by virtue of her position in the household and her role in the story, receives even less attention from the Samsa parents. It is not until after Gregor’s death that the parents express even small signs of affection toward their daughter. Even at that point, they value her in practical and superficial terms, praising her physical beauty and thinking about when she can be married off to someone else.

The parents’ utilitarian view of their children resembles how someone might run a business. Early on, Gregor thinks about his own line of work and how his boss would react to his missing work. Is there an analogy between Gregor’s parents at home and the authority figure at work? Kafka frequently wrote about the cold, bureaucratic society around him. What possible connections could there be between such a society and the family unit? Is Kafka trying to make a point about the larger social and economic system?

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