This is something I wrote years ago, when I was still in school. I know it lacks enough profoundness, but nevertheless, I thought it was interesting.
Kafka has throughout the book, created a pitiable image of Gregor. From the first paragraph in the book, Gregor is described to have ‘many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him…waving helplessly before his eyes.’ This is the paragraph that helps us decide whether we shall pity him or not. This image of helpless Gregor is recurrent throughout. Kafka creates an almost perfect character who is shown to have no ill feelings for anyone even after his cruel treatment and in the end dies so that he may please his family.
This absolute devotion and loyalty that Gregor epitomises is something to be deeply admired. His genuine concern for his family receives a cold heartedness that he does not deserve. After his metamorphosis into a vermin, his family despises him, unable to accept the form he has taken. He becomes an outsider in his own house and his own society.
Kafka makes the readers aware of Gregor’s unfamiliarity with his surroundings in his present changed state. Gregor hits his head, gets his jaw injured, doesn’t eat food and becomes more and more frail without really being aware of it as he should, but he does experience immense psychological and physical pain. This makes readers pity him. Though these incidents have a subtle humour in them, the experience that Gregor has when his father throws apples at him is a rather moving part in the story. That is the first time that we see the brutality he faces from his own father.
It is amazing to see the way Gregor thinks. He seems more worried about not being able to get to work on time rather than hitting his head (which he is not familiar with) or hurting his jaws and causing fatal injury. Gregor tries to make himself resistant to all odds so that he may be of use to his family.
I think Kafka must have realised that by making Gregor’s family hate him, it is easier to sympathise with him. We see that Gregor has no real friend. Once it was his sister who now turns away. There is no one to understand him or to share his woes. He is isolated completely from society and the world that he lives in. No one speaks to him or tries to communicate with him. Kafka must have thought of these things to emphasise the loneliness and seclusion that Gregor faces. In the end, to an extent, that seclusion becomes a reason for Gregor’s death.
Kafka also uses other means to emphasise Gregor’s difficulties in his new form. Food is not readily available for him, there is no kindness from his family, he lives in complete isolation, his family is unable to bear his presence, the family finance is suffering because of him, and he is treated with complete cruelty. Yet Gregor does not fight back for the injustice. He sits enduring it without protesting. That is another thing that readers will admire about him and will help them to sympathise more with Gregor.
Gregor wallows in guilt. He thinks it is due to him that his family is unable to support itself. He cannot be part of the family discussions but is unlucky to overhear them. He readily accepts that it is his fault that his family is financially unstable and that his sister has to work and the family has to run without him as the money provider.
Kafka emphasises the pain that Gregor experiences by inserting phrases such as “bleeding profusely”, “he slowly dragged”, “one little leg had been seriously injured”, “dragged along lifelessly”, “lost some of his mobility”, “like an old war veteran”, “streamed his last weak breath”, “Gregor’s body was completely flat and dry”, “looking back at the corpse”. These short but effective phrases help in describing Gregor’s helplessness and vulnerability.
I personally regard Gregor’s death as the most touching and unbelievable parts in the book. Gregor is given no respect after his death. One may have hoped that his family would have had the courtesy of giving him a decent funeral for “liberating” them, but they do not even do that. The maid just sweeps Gregor out of the room as one would do with any other insect. Things change after his death; his father becomes more authoritative and firmer, his sister matures and the family moves out of their apartment for the first time.
Gregor faces torment throughout the book. Even before he dies, hearing all those demoralising things his sister had said, Kafka describes “His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister’s”. That is really heartbreaking as he also starts believing that it would be better if he died; not so that he may be liberated from his painful life but so that he may rid his family of the burden of having him in the house.
Gregor throughout the book searches for appreciation that he does not get. He is shunned from family and society. He is forced to live in isolation in horrible and filthy conditions. He remains submissive and does not protest his ill- treatment. These are things that would be enough to make a person hate himself and the world around him, but Gregor does not do that.
The most important thing in the book is the symbolic reality. Obviously it is not possible for a human being to undergo metamorphosis and change to a beetle. However, it is possible to relate to people like Gregor; whose families have no real concern for them and use them as money providers. Gregor even shows us those extremely loyal children who would do anything possible for their families, but do not get the same loyalty in return. And lastly, those different people who the world regards as strange and “unfit to live”. That ends up in isolation and seclusion and creates a feeling of shallowness and uselessness.
Kafka effectively evokes emotion in the readers, I think. I cried when I read the book and I am sure others must have. The hidden sorrow and injustice in this book is something to reflect on. I think Kafka manages to emerge with a very touching story of a poor, young man and he succeeds in evoking sympathy.