The Theme of Freedom in Kafka's Metamorphosis
One of Franz Kafka's most well-known and most often criticized works is the short story, "Die Verwandlung," or "The Metamorphosis." "The Metamorphosis" is most unusual in that the first sentence is the climax; the rest of the story is mainly falling action (Greenburg 273). The reader learns that Gregor Samsa, the story's main character, has been turned into an enormous insect. Despite this fact, Gregor continues to act and think like any normal human would, which makes the beginning of the story both tragic and comical at the same time. However, one cannot help but wonder why Gregor has undergone this hideous transformation, and what purpose it could possibly serve in the story. Upon examination, it seems that Gregor's metamorphosis represents both his freedom from maintaining his entire financial stability and his family's freedom from their dependence upon Gregor.
Long before the story takes place, Gregor Samsa's father had a business failure that left him deep in debt. His son, Gregor, works as a commercial traveler for the company to whom he owes money; in effect, Gregor is slowly working off his father's debt. Gregor is not happy with his job, which Greenburg calls "degrading" and "soul-destroying," but believes that his family's existence depends upon him "sacrificing himself by working at this meaningless... job," and so he continues (274). Heinz Politzer goes far enough to say that Gregor is a slave to his boss (276), which would imply that there is no escape for Gregor- at least, no conventional escape.
However, Gregor does escape from his life of indentured servancy- by becoming a giant insect. Walter H. Sokel explains the effect of the metamorphosis on his occupational position.The metamorphosis has intervened and made [work] impossible. It accomplishes, as we can see, in part at least, the goal of Gregor's longed-for rebellion. It sets him free of his odious job. At the same time, it relieves him of having to make a choice between his responsibility to his parents and his yearning to be free. The metamorphosis enables Gregor to become free and stay "innocent," a mere victim of uncontrollably calamity. (265) Here, Sokel states that Gregor, through his transformation, has solved his biggest problem. The company does not accept illness, so he could not escape work by feigning (or truly being stricken with) sickness. Taking on his current bug form is the only real way to completely free himself from his job. In effect, Gregor makes a deal with the devil- he is released of his servitude and family responsibility guilt free, but must live out his remaining days as a giant insect. Freud stated that there were no accidents, but simply acts springing from unconscious motives. If this is true, then Gregor's metamorphosis could be considered his self-punishment and guilt for wanting to quit his job (265-266).
This metamorphosis also marks Gregor's freedom as an individual. Throughout...