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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In The Metamorphosis, what does Gregor's father reveal about their financial status and Gregor's reaction?

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In The Metamorphosis, Gregor's father reveals that the family actually has enough money to survive for some time, which comes as a relief to Gregor, who is now absolved of his financial responsibilities. We might find Gregor's reaction surprising, as his father has essentially been hoarding Gregor's hard-earned money.

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At the start of part 2, Gregor overhears his family talking when his father makes the surprising disclosure that some interest has accrued over the past five years on savings put aside from his earnings. While not a fortune, the sum is enough to support the family for a year or two of Gregor's insect state, implying that with breadwinner Gregor unable to work, his father is unwilling to take a job himself.

Despite Gregor's being misled by his father about the amount of Gregor's salary remaining, which has forced Gregor to continue to suffer the torments of his increasingly hapless career, his "enthusiastic" and "pleasurable" reaction to his father's news reveal his characteristic decency and selfless devotion. He takes satisfaction in his father's frugality and in the pride he took in supporting his family, which Gregor recalls as a privilege.

While Gregor realizes that this secret nest-egg would have allowed him to pay off his father's debt and "free himself" from his unappreciated toiling, he feels no resentment towards his parasitic and manipulative father. Gregor seems unable to even consider the fact that his father had been taking advantage of his good nature and hard work and in fact still trusts that it was "better the way his father had done things."

Gregor's virtue and lack of cynicism contrast with the callous and unsympathetic regard of his father, the office manager, and the boarders, and he maintains his psychic, emotional, and moral equilibrium throughout the story until he gives up and dies. Gregor's constant humanity and regard for others while reason and sanity break down around him grounds the otherwise absurd horror in a recognizable, sympathetic human consciousness. This counterpoint provides much of the story's mordant humor and irony in the fact that the now-insect Gregor remains the story's emotional center and displays the only depth of feeling and spirit in the story.

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The financial situation of Gregor's family is a significant aspect of this text, underlying the themes and plot of the story. Until his transformation, Gregor was the sole earner in his household and believed that the money he earned was used toward essential costs such as housing and food. We are also told that Gregor absolutely hated his job and suffered in this position for the sole purpose of helping his family.

Later in the story, Gregor overhears his family talking about finances, and it is revealed that the family actually has enough money despite Gregor's unemployment. This is because Gregor's father had been saving up some of Gregor's earnings from the past few years. We might think that Gregor would be angry at his father's deceitful actions; however, he instead seems relieved. We get the impression that he is so tired and deflated from the events that have transpired that he has simply given up. He doesn't waste his energy on anger but instead is grateful for the fact he doesn't have to worry about money anymore. Throughout the text, money is heavily associated with the concepts of pride and shame. At the beginning of the text, Gregor "felt great pride in the fact that he had been able to provide such a life for his parents and sister in such a fine flat." However, when Gregor loses his job due to his transformation, he recoils at the thought of money, "hot with shame and grief." Here we see that the abusive financial dependency of Gregor's family has taken a toll on his sense of self-worth and identity.

Although Gregor doesn't seem to care about this revelation, the reader might think it is unjust. Gregor has worked incredibly hard in a job he hated in order to provide for his unemployed family. However, when Gregor goes through a time of difficulty due to his transformation, his family neglects him. There is an elevated sense of injustice and irony as the family discusses how they will survive using Gregor's money while simultaneously ostracizing him from the family unit. Here we can see the abusive relationship Gregor has with his family, whereby they use him for financial security and reject him when he is no longer useful. Gregor's reaction seems incompatible with the reality of the situation, and we might argue that this is due to his compliant, obedient nature and his newfound apathy toward life due to his transformation.

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After Gregor Samsa suffers an amazing transformation into a giant beetle-like insect, he becomes a pariah in his own home where he has thought himself the sole support. He worries about his family, but no one will speak to him directly. Nonetheless, he often overhears his family discussing their financial matters. On the first day after his transformation, Gregor hears his father go to his strongbox and take something from it. Then he hears his father explain the family's financial situation to his mother and his sister now that Gregor is not supporting the family as he has been.

Although his business collapsed five years ago, the father, Gregor overhears, has managed to save some money. This is the first "pleasant news" that Gregor has heard since his transformation. However, the eagerness with which Gregor once began his work and advanced himself so that all in his family could put the financial disaster behind them and the long and many hours that he worked hard to succeed for his family's sake are mitigated when he learns that the money that he has brought home (he kept very little) has never been completely used and a "tidy sum remains."

When he learns of his father's having saved money, Gregor is actually relieved by the knowledge that he has been freed of his financial obligation to his family. However, now he is held captive by his transformation because he can go nowhere.

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Gregor's father reveals that the family actually has enough money to live comfortably for quite a while. The fact that this money had not been mentioned before tells us that Gregor had no knowledge of it. When Gregor hears his father discussing this with the rest of the family, he is actually quite relieved to know that they have money with which to survive. His reaction fits the complacency with which he has come to live his life. He harbors no anger at his father; anger might have made sense, though, since Gregor had been working to pay off his father's debt.

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In the story, Gregor's father reveals that the family is not as financially strained as Gregor imagined. First, Gregor's family still possesses a small inheritance from the past. This inheritance has been allowed to grow in interest.

Additionally, Gregor's family did not spend all of the income Gregor brought home. Gregor's father managed to save a small amount. In fact, this portion has been allowed to accumulate interest, as well.

When Gregor hears this, he is relieved and happy that his father had the foresight to save a small fortune for the family. Gregor does feel a small pang, however. He thinks that the accumulated money could have been used to free himself from a miserable employment situation. It is telling that Gregor's father opted not to give Gregor relief; instead, he chose to keep the savings a secret from Gregor.

According to the story, Gregor's parents had been in debt to Gregor's employer. It was Gregor who worked to free them of this debt. The text tells us that Gregor's work eventually earned him so much money that he was able to bear the burden of supporting his entire family.

Gregor's family was initially grateful for his sacrifice. However, as time passed, they began to take his generosity and sacrifice for granted.

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After hearing a conversation between the other members of his family, Gregor is made aware that his father has actually saved quite a large nest-egg of money. This conversation comes about as a result of the current state of the family – Gregor is no longer able to care and provide for the family. As the family realizes they have few options, the dad reveals that he has saved money. When Gregor hears this, he is relieved to know that his family will be taken care of. When the reader learns this, he/she is sad for Gregor and all the sacrifices he has made. He threw himself into work to get his father out of a bad business deal and continued to support the family. This show us how selfless he was, and to learn that his father was selfish enough to “hide” money is a sadly ironic twist.  

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