- 'Metamorphosis' Review
Exhausting himself as a provider, Gregor becomes a non-entity. He is invalidated by the business that defines him as only a replaceable cog in a machine. While a hard exoskeleton traps insect-Gregor, he was imprisoned already by his job and parents' debts. He ran too hard to meet the demands of business, reducing himself to a serious condition in which he could work no more.
Capitalism harbors work-related obsessions and increasing rates of stress-related diseases. Some of these lead from dietary mistakes, such as hurrying to eat whatever is available. Food, eating, and starvation in Metamorphosis represent life, death, guilt, and withheld love. While the Samsas depended on Gregor as sole support, they trapped him into workaholism, through which he succumbed to an irreversible illness (his insect transformation). Grete takes over as provider and leaves food for Gregor, but in decreasing quantities and qualities, so work leads ultimately to Gregors death.
In Part II, Gregor's condition provokes his idle parents to work, frenetically sewing piecework, and becoming a bank messenger that must now run back and forth. Grete replaces Gregor as the running salesman of the family. The Samsas all scurry with the ambition that Gregor formerly displayed, but Gregor can now scurry only across the floor. They all scurry, but only Gregor looks like an insect. His family were parasites all along when he was working; and while he still feels and thinks as a human, the Samsas turn away in their newfound ambitions and become as emotionless toward him as insects.
Grete as a provider becomes disenchanted with Gregor's care, and begins kicking some food into him daily, finally telling a servant to take over. Gregor feels anger and then guilt about Grete's declining responsibility for him. He becomes depressed, eats less, and finally stops eating altogether in an attempt to stop "bothering" the family "for really, they were suffering enough as it was." Gregor also realizes as an insect that his hunger truly is for love rather than food: "He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for was coming to light." Unfortunately, as Gregor loses his taste for food, his family loses their taste for him.
Becoming Invalid: Metamorphosis
In Part III of Metamorphosis, the Samsas take in three lodgers, because their own jobs together do not equal Gregor's previous income. The Samsas kowtow to the three men and eat in the kitchen, while the boarders dine in the place of honor in the parlor. Meanwhile Gregor, who once supported the entire household, hungers alone in his room.
Throughout Metamorphosis, industrialism is expressed in a precise technical writing style, using the themes of work, buying-power, and dehumanization through working too much. All this makes the story seem very factory-like as it warns us to find meaning aside from work, and to beware victimization, parasitic relationships, and abusers. However, these are exactly the issues we face today, and Kafka's prophecies are correct 100 years later.