Kafka's stories are known for their exploration of the nightmare of bureaucracy and the dehumanizing effects of modern life – all of those things we think of when we use the term "kafka-esque." Ever had to deal with the DMV or the IRS? For many people, such institutions exemplify the kafka-esque. These themes are given the light touch in The Metamorphosis, which centers on the conflict between Gregor and his family. But you can still see the kafka-esque working its dismal magic on Gregor's attitude toward his profession and the behavior of characters who are not members of the family.
Questions About Society and Class
- What is Gregor's (former) job as a traveling salesman like? Do you think he found the job personally fulfilling? Why or why not?
- With Gregor no longer the breadwinner, how does the Samsas' status change? Do they adjust well to the change? Why or why not?
- Take a closer look at the cleaning woman and the boarders. How do these relatively minor characters enhance our understanding of the Samsas and their situation?
Chew on This
Gregor's transformation into a vermin is a metaphor for the dehumanizing effects of his life as a traveling salesman.
The changes in the Samsa family fortunes illustrate how class can be as radically transformative as Gregor's own insect metamorphosis.