Study Guide

The Metamorphosis Life, Consciousness, and Existence

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Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Much of The Metamorphosis is spent in Gregor's head as he struggles to come to terms with his new form. (We would make a "bugging out" pun here, but we're going to stay classy.)

At times he seems to be able to think abstractly about his condition (as an insect) in ways that sound rational, even if his condition is totally absurd. At other times, it seems that the instincts, drives, and pains of his new body encroach upon his consciousness, influencing his mental life in ways that he can't even begin to understand. Many of the comic moments in Kafka's story result from the inevitable clash between Gregor's pesky body and his consciousness.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. Take a look at the scenes where Gregor thinks about his situation. Does Gregor think rationally? Or does he think like a bug? Do you think he's more rational or irrational than the other characters?
  2. Do you think Gregor maintains a human consciousness despite his insect body? If so, where do you see evidence of this? If not, what scenes show the absence of human consciousness?
  3. Consider moments when Gregor and the other characters literally seem to lose their minds. How do these moments make the characters act and feel?

Chew on This

Gregor's obliviousness to the experience of physical pain is evidence that he continues to have a human consciousness that is distinct from his insect body.

By staging scenes where Gregor momentarily loses his self-consciousness and enjoys being a bug, the story shows how human intelligence may actually create unhappiness and suffering.

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