The Metamorphosis of the Family
Before the caterpillar can transform into a butterfly, it must go through a metamorphosis. The cocoon in which the caterpillar hibernates is in fact just a conveyance towards another life form. Gregor, in Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis, is similarly a vehicle for such an important transformation, in this case the reformation of his family. The metamorphosis of Gregor facilitates the gradual change of his entire family, demonstrating that an outside source is sometimes needed in order to push people out of stagnation and into life.
Before the family members begin to make their transformations, they rely heavily on Gregor. The dutiful son sets out to provide for his family after the failure of his father's business. He secures a decent job and the family gladly accepts this new way of life, with a steady income and means of support. Over time, "they had simply got used to it, both the family and Gregor; the money was gratefully accepted and gladly given, but there was no special uprush of warm feeling" (95). Each member of the family becomes accustomed to an easy life in which needs and wants are provided for. This routine causes the individuals in the family to stagnate and live unproductively.
The family begins to follow a path of existentialism because of what their lives have become. Existentialism entails taking responsibility for one's own actions and finding meaning in life. Through the course of the novel, the family proceeds from a state of senselessness to a gradual form of existentialism. In the beginning, the lives of the family members mean nothing and have no purpose. They are not individuals, but rather mindless drones who take advantage of a convenient situation, allowing Gregor to "meet the expenses of the whole household" (95). After Gregor is "transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect" (67), the lifestyle of the family changes dramatically. As David Eggenschwiler says, "the three Samsas [the family] . . . assume and struggle with many of the problems that Gregor once had" (208). No longer able to rely on Gregor, the family must now face the difficulties of supporting the household and providing income. As a result, each member of the family: the mother, the father, and the sister, slowly has a metamorphosis.
Throughout the course of the story, Gregor's mother gradually changes, becoming more self-sufficient. In the early stages of the story, Gregor describes his mother as having severe asthma, which "kept her lying on a sofa every other day panting for breath" (97). The mother seems destined to be a bystander, incapable of working or taking action. However, as the story progresses, she desires to see her lost son and develops a more adventurous spirit. She cries, "do let me in to Gregor, he is my unfortunate son" (100). She slowly begins to emerge from her secluded world and realizes the harsh reality of her son's predicament and the effects of his transformation on...