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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Significant Allusions

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Last Updated on July 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433

Biblical Allusions: Several references throughout the text suggest that Gregor can be read as a Christlike figure who must die as a martyr for his family’s continued prosperity. 

  • Before the story begins, Gregor has sacrificed his personal happiness for his family, all of whom don’t work and live off Gregor’s wages. Gregor maintains no relationships outside work or his family, a fact that he laments. When Gregor ceases being monetarily productive, his family resents him; they are returned to something like happiness once he dies, ending the necessity to hide and care for him. 
  • When struck with an apple, Gregor remarks that he feels as though he has been stretched out and nailed to the floor. This phrasing, fairly consistent across translations, suggests the posture assumed by Jesus Christ as he was crucified in Christian biblical tradition. His father’s rejection of him can be read as a parallel to Jesus Christ’s lamenting his abandonment by God just before death. Note also that Gregor dies at 3 a.m., which may be an allusion to Christ’s dying at 3 p.m. 
  • That Kafka chooses an apple as a weapon against Gregor is likely not an accident. In the biblical story of Adam and Eve, the first humans are banished from the paradisiacal Garden of Eden for eating a forbidden fruit and gaining godlike knowledge—at the cost of mortality. In popular interpretation, that fruit was an apple. Through Gregor’s encounter with his apple-throwing father, Gregor becomes secure in the knowledge that his father views him as the pest he appears to be. This begins his eventual “fall” from his place in the family, culminating in his death. 

Gregor Samsa’s Name: Like Kafka, Jakob Wassermann was a Jewish man writing in German in the early 1900s. His novel, The Story of Young Renate Fuchs (Die Geschichte der jungen Renate Fuchs) contains a character named Gregor Samassa, from which Kafka may have been inspired to name his own character. 

Venus in Furs: This novella by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is directly referenced by the picture Samsa has hanging in his room. It shows a beautiful woman clothed in nothing but fur. It’s notable in that it’s one of the only objects described in detail and by Gregor’s attempt to protect it from being removed by his family. In the novella, the narrator takes the name “Gregor” as a pseudonym. Sacher-Masoch is where the word “masochism” comes from; the theme of pain and humiliation providing pleasure was popularized in his works. 

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