When I picked up this book; well to start off, I simply went through ibooks and got this amazing one hundred page masterpiece because I’m growing a gradual affinity to reading on devices.
What made me read this book though? The metamorphoses is a book with strong roots in existentialist philosophy. The philosophy that questions existence, the meaning of our lives and why and how certain events happen and sometimes to good people.
Lets put this story in context now. The writer is German and this narration has a nuclear family with an older son, Gregor, the protagonist and Grete his sister and their parents. Gregor is the breadwinner of the home since he works as a salesman, his earnings bring in revenue for the home. He has good intentions and plans on sending his younger sister off to school. It is also worthy of note that the family owes Gregor’s boss money so that reason ties Gregor even more to his job and makes him work harder to release the burden off a family under financial constraints. Gregor works in this manner without complaints until he wakes up one morning and is unable to leave his bed as usual to work because he’s been transformed overnight into a monstrous cockroach!
Franz Kafka is apt in his description of the slow processes of initial sadness, pity and lukewarm support that Gregor’s family displays until they realize that they can no longer continue living burdened by a cockroach’s upkeep and its attendant inconveniences one of which is their inability to rent a part of their space for additional revenue. Once upon a time the family does actually rent out a part of their apartment but one of the tenants spots Gregor and out of fright and disgust, decides to exit the abode together with his two friends.
Up until now Gregor’s mother has been unable to reconcile the image of a terrible looking cockroach with that of her son’s once handsome face. She faints or goes into a fit anytime she sees Gregor. One day, she gathers some courage and decides to help Grete rearrange Gregor’s room in such a way that would work well for an animal; allowing him more space to move around etc. They start to do this and out of fright and a deep sense of shock, Gregor’s mother goes into another fit upon the sight of Gregor. Gregor’s father arrives and out of anger, hurls apples at the cockroach, Gregor would’ve been fine if a piece of broken apple hadn’t gotten stuck in his back. The piece rots overtime and facilitates his death.
The experience of living as a cockroach does not change Gregor’s capacity to think or feel as a human would. The only human ability he lacks is the capacity of speech. His auditory skills are still very much in full function and Gregor is able to pick up conversation that his family makes about him. It is said in the novel that a deep silence befell the household. Gregor’s father no longer spoke or ate. In fact his father lived in denial and refused to accept a cockroach as a son and this resolve incited some level of disdain for the now transformed Gregor. It may also be inferred that due to the financial constraints falling on Gregor’s father’s shoulder because of Gregor’s condition, Gregor’s father begins to hate his son out of his failure to continue providing for his family. Gregor dies out of sadness and the open wound with the apple in his back. His sister, Grete, the only one who has shown some kind of support by feeding him suddenly speaks one day to their parents. She urges her parents to join her to leave the life they are living because they can not move on in the same way. Gregor dies out of grief and out of a need to relieve his family of the burden he’s placed on them.