Symbol or Allegory in “The Metamorphosis” essay

Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” has simple and uncomplicated plot. Gregor Samsa was an ordinary man who focused himself to work as a salesman, a job he despised, just to provide his parents and his sister a comfortable life. He even ignored the fact that he neither had friends nor a life of his own. His relationship with his family was detached. One morning, he woke up to find out that he was unexplainably transformed into a giant bug. At first, he was worried more with how he could go to work in that state than with his appearance. When his employer saw him, Gregor was concerned about losing his job.

He also realized that his original plan to send Grete, his most beloved sister who could play violin so well, to the Conservatory suddenly became impossible. His family took care of him for a couple of months or so, feeding him and cleaning his room. However as time passed by, as their resources gradually ran out and exhaustion crept in, the family detested Gregor and he turned to be a burden. The father even pelted him with an apple which stuck in his back and caused infection. To augment their basic needs, the family admitted three lodgers in the house.

The family planned to get rid of Gregor. Upon hearing this, Gregor lost all hope, giving in to hunger and pain that had tortured him all throughout his unexpected metamorphosis. He died. His death became a relief to his parents and his sister. After sending away the lodgers, the family left the apartment to lead a new life. This novel contains several allegories and symbolism that have resemblance, one way or another, to real-life situations. Gregor, the lead character of “The Metamorphosis”, was confined solely to his family and his work. He wanted to gain his freedom from all of these.

But his desire to provide luxury to his family kept him working. His transformation into an insect symbolizes the situation he was in: cut off from pleasures, having neither friends nor a life of his own and a detached relationship with his family, exactly the same with a bug which lives away from the society. He lived on his own. He didn’t even know before his transformation whether his family loved him or not. His family and his job are the allegory of the prison he is in. However he wanted to, Gregor could not find or think of a way to escape.

It seemed to him that he was stuck in it for eternity. Gregor himself represents all the Gregors in our society. They are loved, praised and, to some point, worshipped because they are useful and provide resources that make people around them happy. But when their usefulness ceases, the very people whom they served loathe them. The rotten apple embedded in the back of the insect is an allegory of the painful reality of life. Some people live in fantasy wherein they believe that everything’s alright, that things are going the way they want them to be.

And when they find out that it is otherwise, they are shocked as if it is some kind of incurable disease. Reality bites, the truth hurts. Gregor’s parents and sister were very dependent on him. Since his transformation into a bug, his family did not know what to do. All they did was argue about their misfortune. The three lodgers in their house indicate the family’s lack of control over the situation. This was emphasized further when the lodgers made unreasonable complains because they mistook the action of the father as impoliteness towards them. The violin and the music it creates symbolize peace.

When Grete played the violin one night, the house became still and all of them, including Gregor, gathered to listen to her music, forgetting, for a brief moment, about the misery that engulfed the entire family. The bug symbolizes one more thing: freedom. Gregor wanted badly to be freed from all the physical, emotional and psychological distress created by his family and his job. By becoming a bug, he finally got his freedom.

Reference Franz Kafka (1916) The Metamorphosis. Translated by Ian Johnston of Malaspino University-College, Nanaimo, BC. Retrieved March 1, 2009 from http://records. viu. ca/~johnstoi/stories/kafka-E. htm