Mistreatment from the 1800’s is Still Reflected in Modern Day Society
“The father’s explanations were to some extent the first pleasant news that Gregor got to hear since his imprisonment.” (p. 1654) In the story The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, the character Gregor undergoes a metamorphosis into an insect and experiences what it’s like to feel imprisoned and mistreated within his own home. Throughout the story he continuously is mistreated by his family and sadly still reflects modern day families and society.
Gregor family consisted of his father, his mother and his sister Grete. Before Gregor had turn into an insect he was the main provider of income and covered all expenditures for his family. Gregor was the only person that worked in his family and was a traveling salesman. Therefore, his parents and sister stayed at home and did nothing while Gregor worked everyday. Kafka describes Gregor’s father as having an “unsuccessful life” and “he had grown very fat, becoming rather clumsy.”(p. 1655). His father at one point owned his own business but it had collapsed five years earlier from the day of Gregors transformation. However his father still remained to have a strong sense for business. His mother was lazy and found to be less intelligent then the rest of the family. She also was not working. Kafka states,
And perhaps the old mother go to work-she, who suffered from asthma, who found it strenuous just walking through the apartment, and who spent every other day on the sofa grasping for air by the open window? (p.1655).
His sister was seventeen, kind to Gregor, beautiful, and musical. She played the violin. Grete soon took over as head of the house hold when Gregor turned into an insect.
With Gregor’s transformation thus brings about the problem of who’s going to now provide for the family. This problem then brings upon mistreatment towards Gregor. Many times throughout the story he is forgotten about, attacked, and made to feel dehumanized and no longer apart of the family. In the beginning of his transformation Grete is the only one who takes care of Gregor. She feeds him twice a day and tries to make sure his food is of his liking. His mother in the beginning seems to still care for him but however, cannot bear to look at him or enter the room. The father has no part in his life what so ever and seems to discourage his wife and daughter from entering Gregor’s room however does nothing to harm him just yet. Overtime these feeling tend to change as times become harder. Grete soon finds herself overwhelmed with working and being in charge of the household that she then starts to forget about Gregor and eventually stops feeding him all together. The father becomes more irritable towards Gregor because he is old and now has to begin working again. He feels this way because he has resentment towards his son and feels that it is his fault that he has transformed and can no longer work. At one point in time he attacks Gregor after coming home from work and finding Grete and his wife upset. Without asking what went wrong he assumes it Gregor’s fault and tries to kill his own son! His father does this first by trying to crush him with his boots and when he finds himself to be tired he then starts to throw apples at him. His father then finally succeeds and hit Gregor in the back with an apple. He was only harmed but if he mother did not step in to stop his father there is no doubt his father would have killed him. This however is not the sad part. His father hit him with the apple so hard that it pierced his skin, and stuck into his body. It then stayed like this for over a month because no one in his family cared enough to help heal the damage they had done to their son/brother. Kafka writes “Gregor’s serious injury, from which he suffered for over a month (since no one had the nerve to remove the apple, it stayed lodged in his flesh as a visible memento)” (p.1661). In the end before Gregor took his life his family became withdrawn and gave up on him all together. They no longer feed him or visited him. They took everything that belonged to him and that he cherished from his room. He then was left in loneliness and bare walls. It was like he no longer existed.
I found Gregor’s family to be very selfish and heartless. Throughout the entire story his parents and sister only thought about what was best for them and did not take into consideration of Gregor’s needs. I find them selfish also because they wanted Gregor to do all the work and when he was no long able to his family then had to find jobs they became angry towards him and complained about how hard they had to work. When Gregor worked he never was angry towards his family he only wanted to help them as much as he could. Even when he transformed he was not worried about the fact that he was an insect instead he thought about his family and how he still wanted to help and worried what might come for the in the future. His family also was never grateful. From his hard work as a traveling salesman he made enough money to pay all his families expenditures and also put money aside to save and gain interest incase something happen to him. In the story it states “Furthermore, since the money that Gregor had brought home every month had never been fully spent, it had accumulated into a small principal” (p.1655). This money then helped his family have some money until they found jobs. However this meant nothing to them and they still were upset at the fact that it now was their turn to work. I also find them to be very cruel human beings. I could anyone treat their own family in such a cruel manner. They dehumanized Gregor by calling him “it,” and by leaving him in a room isolated from the rest of them. He not just some creature he is their son and a brother to Grete. Overall my impressions of them are that they are lazy, cruel, and ungrateful.
Gregor and his family can be related to modern day families and society today in many ways. First we see Gregor working a horrible job to support his family. He could easily leave his family to suffer and work to support only himself. Many times we see in modern day families that there is one person working to support the family and are willing to sacrifice their happiness so that their family is secure and happy. Also with this we see a family member taken for granted. Gregor’s family did not realize how much of an asset he was until he was no longer able to work and thus leaving them to find jobs. I see this in many families today. Many times people today take advantage of others and never fully understand their worth and value.
A second way in which the story relates to modern day families is they way in which we don’t except people because they are maybe act different or dress different. When Gregor transformed into an insect his family was ashamed and hide him from the rest of the world. In today’s society we still continue to be closed minded and not welcome to those who are different. This then leaves those who are different to feel isolated like Gregor’s family made him feel. Although he was an insect he still was the same person on the inside.
A third and final way in which Gregor’s family relates to modern day families is how we deal with those who are sick or dieing. Within some families today we see at first they want to help care for that sick family member because they feel sorry for them. In the story we see this when Gregor’s mother and sister in the beginning want to feed him and clean his room. When then see Later Gregor becoming a burden on his mother and sister. Many times with the ill we will take care of them and later on down the road find them to be a burden. Sadly some even go as far to take out their aggression onto the ill like we see Gregor’s father do when he attacks him with the apples.
In this story we see Gregor to as somebody who feels very isolated from the world and his family. We also see him as someone who can easily be taken advantage of. He is a hard worker who wants to help his family by providing his income to keep his family secure. He was some one who thought about others and truly cared about others happiness. However many times he felts pressured by his family to work and feels that helpless and guilty when he can no longer provide for his family. To me this is way he transforms, because he is so pressured he fears it so much that it’s almost like he willed it to happen. I feel this could have all been avoided. I feel that Gregor should have left his family and started his own life and paid for his own bills. His family did not appreciate him and all that he provided for them so there was no need to put himself under that kind of pressure.
I felt The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, proved to be an excellent science fiction writer through the use of details. “His many legs, wretchedly thin compared to his overall girth, danced helplessly before his eyes” (p. 1641); this is just one of many example that Kafka uses detail to help the reader visualize Gregor as an insect.
Overall this story provides ideas and activities of society during the late 1800’s and modern day life still today. Because of pressure from society and our families we tend to mistreat those around us.