Metamorphosis Questions, Questionnaire Example

Question 1: No, Gregor Samsa was not always a bug.

Question 2:  It is the Chief Clerk who visits Gregor early in the story.

Question 3:  Gregor’s sister plays the violin.

Question 4:  An apple is thrown by the father, injuring Gregor.

Question 5:  Gregor’s role in the family is essentially that of provider.  His mother, father, and sister rely upon him and his job to keep them secure, a responsibility all the greater because Gregor is also working to pays off his parents’ debts.  His father had failed in business, which had rendered him emotionally incapable of working.  Adding to this burden is the dream of Gregor to send his sister, Grete, to a music conservatory.  He is, in plain terms, the family’s mainstay, the boarders they take in notwithstanding.  As to how this affects Gregor, it is arguable that these pressures trigger his transformation into an insect.  This is an extreme existential device or metaphor, but no less extreme than the stress oppressing Gregor from the story’s beginning.  The sheer weight of his responsibilities is such that he is literally “lost” beneath them, and can exist only as a primitive organism.

Question 6:  Gregor’s feelings about his job are both complex and uniformly negative.  In a very real sense, he fears it because he is as gripped by the need to maintain it as is his family.  His desperation is painfully evident in his frantic excuses to the chief clerk; aware that something monstrous has occurred to him, Gregor nonetheless stalls for time and understanding: ““I’m just going to open the door this very minute. A slight illness, an attack of giddiness, has kept me from getting up” (Kafka  11).  As the closed door exchange goes on, so too does Gregor’s desperation increase, for the chief clerk is making it clear that the job Gregor so needs is not secure.  At the same time, and not unexpectedly, Gregor is contemptuous of his job and all those associated with it.  He dreams of the day when his father’s debts are gone: “If I didn’t have to hold my hand because of my parents I’d have given notice long ago” (6).

Question 7:  Gregor’s death is essentially a suicide.  Aware of what his being has done to his family, as well as of their disgust for him, he retreats back to his bedroom and literally wills himself to die, a process likely abetted by his injury, but one absolutely decisive: “The decision that he must disappear was one that he held to even more strongly than his sister, if that were possible” (40).  His death liberates the family, and in several ways.  The father regains his former character and begins to take command of the family’s future, as Grete is seen as blossoming into a powerful womanhood.  More importantly, as they have refused to see Gregor as the creature, they do not mourn his loss.

Question 8:  Marxist theory most definitely applies to “Metamorphosis,” provided that there is a full understanding of how material forces create behaviors and psychological states of being.  On a basic level, the catalyst of the story is as centered on Gregor’s ceasing to be the provider as it is upon his transformation; in Marxist terms, his identity is as perverted by the former as it is by the latter.  The metaphor then expands because his family is as enabled to be disgusted by this inability to earn as by the physicality of him.  Gregor’s being is no longer valid because his economic function is gone.  Similarly, the other material forces in the story carry their own weight in dictating the structure of life.  The dread of losing the boarders, for example, is another economic consequence potentially reinforcing Gregor’s initial disgrace; there is the sense that this last security is all that validates his remaining alive, as his appearance before the boarders then seals his own doom.  He not only fails as provider, but he destroys the only other means of survival, so he is utterly dispensable.  Linked to this is the expansion of the family after Gregor’s death.  There is now renewed opportunity in material senses, so there is a renewal of life and positive spirits.

Works Cited

Kafka, F.  “Metamorphosis.”  Portland: Scriptor Press, n/d. Web.  <http://www.scriptorpress.com/burningmanbooks/20_2002_kafka.pdf>