The Metamorphosis Literary Analysis
Popular culture often portrays the contrast between functional and dysfunctional families to outline the factors that contribute to their formation.
In a similar pursuit, Kafka identifies one significant ingredient in the establishment of a healthy family. In The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka employs symbols, imagery, and settings to emphasize that a family organization where equally-shared responsibilities prevail is more effective in maintaining a positive domestic atmosphere. Using symbols, Kafka illustrates that imbalance in family responsibility results in resentment and hatred. In Part I of the novella, when the financial security of the family is based only on Gregor’s income, Gregor adopts the precaution “of locking all the doors during the night even at home” (1085). Because Gregor is not working for himself but to pay the family’s debt, he is unsatisfied with his occupation.
In this quote, the lock symbolizes Gregor’s wish to isolate himself from his family and society due to his anger. This symbol illustrates the inevitable frustration that follows unequal weight of financial responsibility in the Samsa family. On the contrary, a sudden change in the family atmosphere can be observed in part III when “Mr. Samsa appeared in his uniform, his wife on one arm, his daughter on the other” to stand up against the boarders (1109). Unity of heart of the three family members gives them the strength they need to drive the boarders out of their house.
In literature, the number three is often used as a symbol of strength and authority. Kafka uses this symbol in a similar manner to signify the recovery of potency within the Samsa household once they all contribute to a common cause. Through his manipulation of symbols, Kafka artfully transitions the mood of the family to parallel the shift in responsibility, transforming from an isolated responsibility into a unified effort. Similarly, imagery is used to illustrate the impact of shared responsibility on domestic temperament. When the economic stability of the family shifts onto Mr. Samsa’s shoulders alone in Part II, a similar fate of resentment and instability is seen when Mr.
Samsa immediately “put the worst interpretation on Grete’s all-too-brief announcement and assumed that Gregor was guilty of some outrage” (1100). As demonstrated, the burden of finance on a single person once again results in bitterness and anger. With Mr. Samsa now being the only worker in the house, he experiences the same fatigue and animosity as Gregor, leading him to act impulsively by throwing apples at Gregor and injuring him. The image of his outrage clearly exemplifies the antipathy that he develops from being the only provider. A change in fiscal responsibility for all family members in the end of the work leads to a “closer examination that these weren’t bad at all, for all three positions—about which they had never really asked one another in any detail—were exceedingly advantageous and especially promising for the future” (1110).
This quote focuses on the potential improvement in the family when Mr. and Mrs. Samsa and Grete all contribute to the family’s livelihood. Their equivalent effort not only provides them a basis for economic security but it establishes a much more positive atmosphere than one where Gregor or Mr. Samsa is the only provider. This newfound hope develops a favorable image of the family situation as a result of contributions from all members.
To convince the readers of the importance of equal dependability among family members, Kafka creates images of resentment and hopefulness with respect to their corresponding causes. Now with settings, Kafka changes the polarity of the climate at specific segments of the story to reflect the developments in the Samsa’s family towards equality in duty. When Gregor is the only person who is financially responsible for the family, the weather is described when “Gregor’s eyes then turned to the window, and the overcast weather–he could hear raindrops hitting against the metal window ledge–completely depressed him” (1084). A depressing image of the setting is painted through the illustration of this weather. One can correlate the current status of the family’s finance to the dreary disposition of the setting to realize the author’s message about non-homogeneity in responsibility of a family. In contrast, after Gregor’s death, when the Samsa family finally unites for a brighter future, the climate changes as “The car, in which they were the only passengers, was completely filled with warm sunshine” (1110).
A much more positive climate is described in conjunction to a much happier union of the Samsas. This abrupt transformation of the weather suggests that a family where equilibrium of duties and responsibility is maintained is a prerequisite to an optimistic domestic climate. Through his portrayal of the weather, Kafka correlates the mood of the story to the current family status of the Samsas to suggest that equilibrium is critical in a family. Throughout The Metamorphosis, symbols, imagery, and settings are used to develop Kafka’s message about domestic stability. By integrating these literary devices, he implies that in order to achieve a healthy family atmosphere, all members must contribute equally to common causes. Kafka uses symbols to contrast the difference in mood between the unequal and equal shares in financial responsibility of the Samsa’s family.
He also uses imagery and settings to provide a transition between positive and negative polarities as a result of the shift towards equilibrium of responsibility. In conclusion, through his exploitation of symbols, imagery, and settings, Kafka develops the theme that it is necessary to have equal responsibility to maintain a lively family.