“What has happened to me? he thought. “(Kafka, 495) This quote is from the narrator in Kafka’s tale; The Metamorphosis, when Gregor Samsa wakes up and finds himself turned into a giant insect, and it was apparently not a dream. Gregor was a traveling salesman, he hated his job, but he was forced to stay in that business in order to pay his father’s debts to his boss, and maintain a comfortable lifestyle to his family.
Kafka presents the metamorphosis event in an interesting way, when it seemed that Gregor was not shocked by the transformation, causing a little mystery, especially that Kafka did not provide any events prior to the metamorphosis scene. Several themes emerge in the story; however they all contribute to the main theme of alienation. The effect of financial pressure on social life, the struggle to satisfy family duties and the struggle for freedom; are all “secondary” themes that contributed to generate the “primary” theme of alienation.
In the average family, parents try to recognize their children and treat them all equally, but that was not the case with the Samsas, where they recognized their son Gregor no more than a source of income. When Gregor was not able to work anymore after the metamorphosis, the family rejected his existence as a bug and he was neglected and treated with cruelty. The effect of financial pressure on Gregor’s social life took place before the metamorphosis, because Gregor has devoted all his effort and time into his job to serve the family’s needs, in the meantime he ignored his social life, which lead to an extreme sense of alienation.
From a personal interpretation, Kafka tries to present Gregor as a frustrated building block of the bureaucratic system, which leads to the belief that Kafka was criticizing bureaucracy and prove that it is alienating on a much larger scale than one person; rather it could alienate an entire society or even a nation. After the metamorphosis, Gregor becomes useless to the family, he is alienated in his room where he could not be seen by anyone, and the only person who was able to go in and out of his room was his sister Grete, where she used to go in to bring food and clean the room.
The family realized that their work horse does not exist anymore, so they all begin working, and therefore their interactions with each other decreased, and the family realized how the responsibilities and demands of jobs can be exhausting, and they knew how it could isolate human beings and disable them from establishing a social life. These days, it is very rare and almost fascinating to see the son providing all the financial support for the family, but for Gregor this lifestyle was natural and it was one of the main reasons for his downfall.
Prior to the metamorphosis, Gregor’s primary concern is to keep up with the family’s needs and pay his father’s debts and maybe send his sister to the Conservatory to learn the violin. This amount of duties became natural to Gregory, it became a major stress in his life, and he would even feel guilty if he can not be up to the expectations “The next train went at seven; to catch it he must hurry madly, and his collection of samples was not packed;” (Kafka, 496) despite the fact that he is a bug, he still wants to go to work in order to make money and help his family.
Gregor’s concerns with the duties he was responsible for are related to the financial pressure situation; therefore it contributed to the same outcome, which is gaining more sense of alienation. After the metamorphosis, Gregor is no longer able to keep up with the family’s expectations; but rather the family now has a new duty of taking care of their bug son. The family handles Gregor’s state with more isolation when they lock him up in his room, and the only thing he was receiving is food and some minor cleaning from his sister.
But after a while, the family thought that they have given him enough care already, and the sister is frustrated by all duties she was doing, “I don’t think anyone could reproach us in the slightest,” (Kafka, 527) she says as she suggests that they need to get rid of him. Ironically, we see that the people Gregor cares for and supports show that they have love for him, and as eluded earlier, he was more of a material figure to them. With those situations, Kafka is emphasizing that when someone or something is no longer able to fulfill their purpose, it is best to isolate them or terminate them.
This philosophy happens to be very sound, because we see situations that correlate it. It was clear that Gregor was a prisoner to his job by his duty to the family, however he dreams with a passion of that day, when he pays off their debts and finds a new job. Gregor’s cry for freedom from his demanding job and his high maintenance family’s need was expressed in his metamorphosis, where Kafka projected it as an escape. Unfortunately, this escape fails to serve Gregor’s cry for freedom, but instead he ends up being ceased in his room by his family. Gregor’s struggle for freedom led him to more alienation.
An unfair situation appears with Gregor’s struggle for freedom, when he is working, he is enslaved by restrictive demands for his job, but when he is not working, he is enslaved, alienated and mistreated by his family. There was no possible chance for him to have a balance of freedom and demands; he was practically a slave before and after the metamorphosis. The only way Gregor found his freedom was in his death, and it also seemed that his death has given his family some freedom, when the father responded to the news of his son’s death by saying “We can thank God for that! ” (Kafka, 530).