“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed hr had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug” (Kafka 1). This is nonsensical! Kafka uses this ‘metamorphosis’ scene symbolically to achieve some assorted themes of the story. To understand why Kafka uses Gregor symbolically in this story, it is important to understand the themes he wants to achieve too. In a snapshot, Gregor is used symbolically in Metamorphosis to expose the collapse of justice and mercy and the breakdown of humanity. Justice and mercy might fade away even in the eyes of one’s closest friends; family members, and this reality dawns on Gregor the moment he turns into a bug.
In his earlier normal days, Gregor is the sole breadwinner in his family, something that makes his family members recognize and accept him lest they remain hungry. Though he loathes his job as a salesperson, he does it “with great earnestness” (Kafka 35), to ensure his family is well-fed and save enough for Grete, his sister, to join a conservatoire for professional training in playing the violin. This shows how devout Gregor is to give the best to his family members. Unfortunately, people are self-seeking and the moment they stop getting their fair share in a deal, they buck out. This is exactly what happens to Gregor the moment he turns into a bug. The same family members who cherished him, or so he thought, turn their back on him, and in return for his lengthy loyalty to their well-being, he receives injustice and unkindness. Even though Gregor’s family tries to accept his status as a bug, perhaps to cover their cynicism, they later disregard him completely and subject him to seclusion and untold apathy. Unfortunately, this form of justice and mercy degradation takes place at the family level where one expects total acceptance no matter what comes his/her way. Grete finally tries to dissuade his parents from the notion that Gregor the bug is the Gregor they once knew as a son and a brother. This final rejection kills Gregor and Kafka uses this death symbolically to show how justice and mercy have died in the family, the institution where they should be esteemed. Apart from this, Kafka uses Gregor’s symbolism to bring out the issue of humanity’s breakdown, how people forget to live, in the process of making a living.
As aforementioned, during his ‘normal’ days as a human being, Gregor the salesperson devotes all his efforts to sustaining his family. He hardly thinks of himself let alone sparing time to reconnect with himself. Before the metamorphosis, Gregor is alienated; he never has time for himself or his feelings. Fortunately, after he turns into a bug, a journey to becoming human embarks. After he loses his physical attributes of a human being, he starts finding himself. He realizes that he has feelings, notably the feelings of rejection and love. Kafka uses this symbolism to show how human beings crave acceptance but their physical attributes bar them from achieving the same. Gregor the bug finally dies for he cannot be accepted. Hitherto, if he faced any form of rejection he would fill that with providing more money to his subjects who would in return accept him. Unfortunately, as a bug, the only thing he can offer is himself, his humanness, which is lost from the beginning. Kafka seeks to show the readers how people relinquish what is of importance, humanity, in pursuit of the less important, materialism. Therefore, Gregor is used as a symbolism in The Metamorphosis to exploit the theme of justice and mercy decadence coupled with humanity degradation.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Crown, 2003.