April 4, 2018
In many cases what we dream reflects reality. An example of this is the novella The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. The story is based around Gregor Samsa, the breadwinner of the family, who wakes up as vermin. Gregor lives with his family that consisted of his mom, dad, and sister Grete Samsa. When his family finds out that the state of his physical condition they must figure out how to navigate daily life while taking care of Gregor. Kafka’s exploration of fantasy in this story was mirrored through Gregor waking up as vermin when this is not possible This essay will discuss the connection between fantasy and reality that takes place in the story.
When you think of vermin usually negative connotations come to mind. Vermin are vile creatures that no one wants to deal with. For Gregor to become vermin, it raises a few questions initially such as Why vermin? What makes him vermin? In addition, why not another creature? Gregor can be characterized as a sad human being. For example, At the beginning of the story, he isn’t happy with the life he chose. Gregor states “Oh, God what a strenuous profession I’ve chosen – traveling day in, day out! The demands of business are far greater on the road than they are at the home office, and I am burdened with the annoyances of travel… To hell with it!” (Kafka, 2013). However, he works there for his family’s sake.
Gregor is a traveling Salesman who follows a strict schedule, he only works there to pay off his father’s debt, his boss is not very fond of him, nor is his father, and he hardly has any friends. He mostly just reads for entertainment and interacts with his family. The relationship between Gregor and his family are important factors as to why Gregor’s reality and the use of fantasy related. For example, when Mr. Samsa encounters Gregor it is mostly hostile. Mr. Samsa had a short fuse with him, first knocking on his door with concern the almost immediately after banging on the door for a swift reply from Gregor “Gregor! Are you ok?!” (Kafka, 2013). After Gregor finally reveals himself so that he can save his job, his father begins to beat Gregor with a wooden stick. This is one of many times where Gregor is treated as such by his father. The dynamics of the family change after everyone sees his change.
Kafka’s usage of setting and imagery throughout the story is important as well. It is important because it shows a visual understanding of Gregor’s life. For example, Gregor’s room has four entryways. One from the Livingroom, his parent’s room, and Grete’s room. Kafka mentions that at night Gregor locks his room doors to keep them out. For a long time, his family depended on him for everything. This leads to the next point of how much of a burden Gregor’s family was to him and how much of a burden he became after the change.
Mrs. Samsa discusses to Gregor as her “unfortunate son,” hint that she still believes Gregor to be basically the same even though his appearance shows otherwise. While, the father gives no sign that he sees Gregor as the same, and attacks him as though he were an intruder when learning he left his room. This misconception of Gregor’s humanity stems from Gregor himself. Gregor is trying to resolve his human emotions and past with the physical impulses of his new body. Gregor’s lingering humanity is most evident in his thoughts and emotions. He remains proud that he could help his family financially in the past however, he feels shame at being unable to help them in his current state. Although, he is determined to keep them away from any unnecessary suffering on his account.
Sometimes the family’s do not realize the stresses that they put each other. Towards the ending of the story the roles in the house change. Gregor is now dependent on his family for support, comfort, and food. His family begins to have little interest in him. Since they are making ends meet for their survival. They even get a new cleaning lady. The new cleaning lady regularly talks to Gregor. She openly stares at him and even tries to sneak into the room to catch him off-guard. One day, Gregor, tired of being scrutinized at, attacks her, but the cleaning lady threatens him with a chair, so he stops. From this exchange, you can see that Gregor still has a sense of humanity which the people in his surroundings seem to forget. Like many other people, Gregor still appreciates his privacy but would like the interaction with his family.
The family also brings in three renters into the apartment, because of them the family moves much of the furniture and the cleaning lady’s supplies into Gregor’s room. Gregor enjoys crawling through the clutter, though doing so leaves him exhausted. This too is an example of how Gregor becomes the last thought in his family’s mind. However, Gregor remained humbled.
Many of Gregor’s encounters with his family can be a reason for why he woke up as vermin. It could all just be a dream, however, Gregor lived his life doing for others. This could have a toll on anyone. It could make you start to question yourself, and what purpose you have in the world. The family was not the greatest, to Gregor and Gregor was ultimately not helpful to his family. You could say that because Gregor provided for his family he did good, but he also enabled them to be stationary. It wasn’t until after Gregor dies that we see the family going out together, and enjoying life. When Gregor overhears Grete saying that they must stop believing Gregor is vermin it crushes him. This is the turning point for the story because more than anything Gregor wished that Grete still had faith that he would come back to his true form. Up until the end, Gregor still put his family first.
Gregor in his vermin form was a blessing and a curse. Gregor lived with his family, to the point where even in his happiest form he still put himself last to make them feel comfortable. It was fortunate for the family because they had finally found their purpose. Kafka created Gregor as this vermin as a depiction of his reality.