Metamorphosis of the Family in Kafka's Metamorphosis
In Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, the nature of Gregor Samsa's reality changes insignificantly in spite of his drastic physical changes. Gregor's life before the metamorphosis was limited to working and caring for his family. As a traveling salesman, Gregor worked long, hard hours that left little time to experience "life." He reflects on his life acknowledging the "plague of traveling: the anxieties of changing trains, the irregular, inferior meals, the ever changing faces, never to be seen again, people with whom one has no chance to be friendly" (Kafka 13). Gregor, working to pay off his family's debt, has resigned himself to a life full of work.
Kafka himself paralleled this sentiment in a quote taken from his diaries noting that no matter how hard you work "that work still doesn't entitle you to loving concern for people. Instead, you're alone, a total stranger, a mere object of curiosity" (Pawel 167). Gregor submerges himself in work and becomes a stranger to himself and to life. Any type of social contact beyond porters, waitresses or bartenders was non-existent. He had once met a "cashier in a hat shop, whom he had pursued earnestly but too slowly" (Kafka 76).
There was no room in Gregor's life for people other that his family and as a result was condemned to a life without love or caring not to mention basic companionship. He worked diligently to provide for his family and that remained his only goal in life. Gregor's family relied on him to be the "breadwinner" of the family, but gave him nothing in return. The life that he had led until now was one fully of obligations and loneliness; he came home to empty hotel rooms or his apathetic family.
His parents and "their dominance thus extends to the system which deprives him of creative life and married love" (Eggenschwiler 54). So concerned with ensuring his parents and sister were taken care of, he forgot his own needs. It was apparent to everyone that he was no longer thought of as a son or an extension of the family, but merely as a "support system." The tragic fact is that "everyone had grown accustomed to it, his family as much as himself; they took the money gratefully, he gave it willingly but the act was accompanied by no remarkable effusiveness" (Kafka 48). It appears that in the course of his hectic work schedule, he overlooks that in return for dedication to his family, he remains unloved and unappreciated. Yet Gregor still "believed he had to provide his family with a pleasant, contented, secure life" (Emrich 149), regardless of how they treated him.
Gregor's existence before the metamorphosis was much like after it; limited to work and family, he went unnoticed by both. After changing into a cockroach one night, Gregor is forced to live a life of isolation with a family who is appalled by him. He is placed in a "dark bedroom, in the jumble of discarded furniture and filth"...