Metamorphosis is a biological transformation process in which animals develop from the birth or hatching stage into an adult. This process is systematic and involves the changes in the physical body of the animals by changing form, appearance and texture through growth of the cells and cell differentiation. This process occurs in amphibians, crustaceans, some insects like butterflies and moths, molluscs, echnoderms, tunicates and Cnidarians as they grow to adult stage.
In the story of ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Joseph Kafka, it is a fiction story that illustrates the imagery to show how the once industrious and hard-working travelling salesman called Gregor Samsa transformed himself into a feared character like that of a monstrous insect. The story states that “Gragor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes”. This is an imagery to depict Gregor as a very scary insect, like one resembling a caterpillar or dung beetle in the pupal stage of metamorphosis that is not even supposed to be seen from a distance.
He wakes up in the morning and finds himself not in the mood of going to work any more with one reason that he hates waking up early to go to work. He also does not like his tyrannical boss at work and feels like resigning from his job though with full knowledge that he cannot quit, until he clears repaying the debt his parents owe his boss. This is a clear show that Gregor does not enjoy his work and his presence at his work place is only to satisfy the needs of his parents who can borrow in his name as he works to pay later.This is a kind of frustration that faces many young employees who feel used up due to the poverty and dependency levels from their family members. This same frustration forces Gregor to metamorphosis from a known caring, hard working and skilled man who wakes up early for work and has never missed even a day of work for the last five years, to a monstrous like being who does not care about feeding the family any-more.
After Gregor realizes that he is very late to go to work,he lies back with hope that he will find a solution to the situation. The loyalty and skills he has at work warrants the boss to send the chief clerk to check on him in his apartment who is disappointed with his action. The action of the boss indicates that there is always a second chance to human actions and mistakes made during the initial stages. Gregor made a mistake of living the job without concrete reason, but was given a second chance to redeem his lost glory which he however refused. He allowed his depression, negative attitude and frustrations to take control of his life until his death.
Gregor declined to open the door even after the family pleaded with him to open to meet the chief clerk sent by his boss. Mrs. Samsa after this maintained that Gregor is sick and that could be the reason behind his unfamiliar action. The clerk becomes annoyed and commends that Gregor’s position in the firm is not guaranteed because his performance has lately been below standards. This commends agitates Gregor who insists that he is not feeling well but will soon resume his duties. Because Gregor’s voice has changed, no one outside the room understands any word he speaks. Fearing he is ill, his parents send Grete and the servant girl to get the doctor and the locksmith. With great difficulty Gregor manages to open the door by himself.
Gregor pleads with the chief clerk to explain the condition at the office and to defend him with assurance that he will gladly go back to work once he is well. In the same process, a commotion is created with a confusion of the mother who knocks down a coffee pot as Gregor tries to stop the clerk from going back with such a negative view of the conditions and requests the clerk not to go without agreeing with him. This action makes Gregor’s father to drive Gregor back into his room using a walking stick injuring him on the back. This action points at how ruthless the people in authority in the society are persieved to be, who will always not give room for defence and explanations regarding the state of the issues. Gregor is not given room to explain the causes of his sudden change of behaviour, but instead, the family members quickly asserts that he is sick.
Analysis of Food Imagery
When Gregor waked up at twilight, he smells food that his sister had brought him. He tries to drink the milk, but is however repulsed by the scent and taste. Food in this case is an imagery of the good and sweet thing Gregor liked to take when was fine. His sudden transformation makes him lose touch even with environment and the thing as sweet and nice as food he liked before, thing that used to be appealing no longer commands same attention in his life. Despite the fact that he stopped going to work, the family still provides for him the necessities which he refused to work for.
His injury makes the family to accept his condition, and even leave his door open. The family members have then taken over to provide for the family including the father who goes back to business after the transformation of Gregor. These new jobs leaves them very tired making them to be quiet most of the time with no one much concerned with Gregor. This makes Gregor angry since no one cleans his room and provides him with food. He feels neglected and whenever the mother cleans his room, a family fight arises since no one is expected to provide for him such services.This makes Gregor view himself as someone worthless in the eyes of his family members who does not deserve any life.
This is a complete metamorphosis by the members of Mr Samsa’s family who have all over sudden changed to neglect one who was once their sole bread winner after the father stopped doing business. Gregor had been working hard not missing even one job day for the last five years only to provide for his family, notwithstanding the advantages the parents had to take debts from his boss for him to pay later. Gregor’s younger sister, who also had a dream to know how to play violin and had been promised by Gregor that she would be taken to conservatory also forgot about his beloved brother. This is imagery that points out that in the society one is always liked at the time the person can add value to the people around but not being burdensome.
After Gregor climbs the couch and decides that he will help the family get through the difficult situation, Grete brings him a lot and variety of food for him to choose which type of food to eat but throws away all the food he does not finish. This is great irony especially for a family that struggled to get food on the other hand throwing away food. This equally shows that Gregor had become an outcast to an extent that whatever he touched was contaminated not to be used by his beloved family members showing complete metamorphosis and at the same time the charwoman teasing him. It show a sense of separation from the natural environment and that is unclean thus should secluded from the rest of the society members.
Gregor also notices that there is complete change in the family as there is no longer joy as used to be. His father stopped reading the paper to the family and there is total silence in the apartment (Franz 1924). His freedom has been taken away with his door shut always from outside not allowing any on to go in so that the lodgers may not see the sick Gregor lest they run away without paying the dues. Gregor felt so much offended to learn from the family conversation that the family had saved money from the father’s business that collapsed five years ago and also have savings from his job as travelling salesman though no one appreciated his contribution and only receives beating from his father whenever he finds him outside his room to an extent of losing consciousness.
The domineering lodgers come into the apartment and are served well then request Grete to play for them violin. This violin music draws Gregor who craws out to listen to the violin, but draw attention of the lodgers who further threatens not to pay for the period they had stayed in the apartment. Grete gets upset and suggests to the parents that Gregor who is her intimate friend be eliminated for persecuting the lodgers.This is a complete transformation of Grete who was to be taken to conservatory to learn how to play violin by the same Gregor she now suggests his elimination. Grete was the only remaining member of the family who still showed favours to Gregor despite his condition. This was the highest peak of the metamorphosis and Gregor having realised and understood the feeling, retreated into his room and died at sunrise. Contrary to the expectation of many, Mr. Samsa’s becomes happy at the demise of Gregor and feel relieved with their future projection appearing bright. This clearly shows that the condition of Gregor was a great disappointment to them to an extent of viewing their own who was once the bread winner to be burdensome
Imagery relating to Religion.
Joseph Kafka had a strong Jewish background and depicted the Gregor as an outcast comparing him with the German term Ungeziefer that directly means ‘unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice’.This was to mean that Gregor was truly outcast that cannot be used for a special purpose like that of sacrificing to forgive sin as the Jewish used to do. Equally, someone who was unclean according to Judaism was not to be touched and allowed to mingle with other clean people, but was to be secluded just like Gregor was and not allowed to get out of his room. The food he touched was also to be thrown away without being eaten by another clean person because it was believed that doing that would make he clean person filthy.
In conclusion, the metamorphosis fiction story illustrates the transformation of characters from what they originally are to completely different individuals with characteristics that are not desirable at all by the society. Gregor transformed from a hard-working, caring and friendly person one who never cared for their family that wholly depended on his work as a travelling salesman and described as a monstrous insect that should not even be seen. The society equally accepts one who adds value to the society and at times transforms to neglect members of the society whose traits are unbearable just like the Mr. Samsa’s family transformed to rejoice when he finally died.