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What does Gregor's death symbolize?

Based on The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
by

Haemin Chong

on 13 October 2014

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Transcript of What does Gregor's death symbolize?

What does Gregor's death symbolize?
Discussion questions
Do you think humans have an intrinsic need for love and attention?
How is suicide viewed in our society? Do you think suicide is caused by societal flaws?
What does the abruptness of Gregor's death mean?
Many have said that Franz Kafka reflects himself in Gregor. Why do you think Kafka chose to turn Gregor into a bug? What do you think that says about how Kafka thinks of himself?
How does a family become so detached like the Samsas?
Overview
The metamorphosis by Franz Kafka can be dissected in many ways and is subjective to the reader. One of the most debated interpretations of the story lies within the scene of Gregor's death. We will be explaining our interpretation of the ending, which centers on Gregor's hunger for love and his dissatisfaction with his mundane life, and connecting it to the human psyche and our intrinsic need for love.

Quote #1
“They took the money with thanks, and he happily surrendered it, but a special warmth was no longer present. Only the sister had remained still close to Gregor”(Kafka, 9)
Analysis
Quote #2
This quote symbolizes Gregors relationship with his family. Already at the beginning, we can see that he has an unhealthy relationship with his family. His family sees Gregor as a source of income, and as the story goes on, his relationship with his sister becomes strained as well. This is because his family starts to resent Gregor, because he isn’t making them any money, and he’s forcing them to work and change their lazy and comfortable lifestyle. Gregor doesn’t understand why they are not longer paying attention to him, and it greatly upsets him. Soon the feeling of resentment becomes mutual, and Gregor has become deprived of love and human interaction. Even though he is still an insect, he has the mindset of a human being.
"Leaning back comfortably in their seats, they discussed their prospects for the time to come, and it seemed on closer examination that these weren't bad at all...Growing quieter and communicating almost unconsciously through glances, [Mr. and Mrs. Samsa] thought that it would soon be time, too, to find [Grete] a good husband. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey their daughter got up first and stretched her young body," (Kafka 20)
Analysis
This further symbolizes Gregor's detachment from his family and, in a flipped perspective, his family's detachment from him. Towards the end of his life, it is revealed more than ever that Gregor's family had not loved Gregor because he was their son/brother; they viewed him as a source of income and nothing more. This is why the family moved on so quickly, even taking a vacation, soon after Gregor's death. This is not completely the fault of the family, however. By living like a bug even before his death, Gregor forced himself into a state of isolation from the very family he was providing for. The reason that it only took the family twenty pages to completely cut off from Gregor was because the family bond that exists in a healthy family relationship never existed. The fact that by the end of the book, the family had not only grown closer, but had completely moved on from their son's death is a sign of an unhealthy family. In such a short time, they were already thinking ahead to finding Grete a husband and building a good future for themselves. They had little regard for Gregor. The literal word in the book is that Gregor starved himself to death, but the truth is, he had been starving himself for his entire adult life. Humans, no matter how cut-off, have an innate need to be loved. Starving a person from love is much worse than starving them from food because the death that results is much more painful. Gregor starved his body of life's nutrients, but he did the same to his heart, and a deadly factor of both caused his death.

Quote #3
"He watched as it slowly began to get light everywhere outside the window too. Then, without his willing it, his head sank down completely, and his last breath flowed weakly from his nostrils." (Kafka, 20)
"At first she would call to him as she did so with words that she probably considered friendly, such as 'come on then, you old dung-beetle!', or 'look at the old dung-beetle there'!" (Kafka, 15).

Analysis
This quote really looks into Gregor's death. There is not really an explanation of how he died but it is strongly supported that it was due to the hunger for love. He was not actually starved of food, but instead of love and care from his family that he had supported all of his life. He was in a state of mind of depression. His father who he looked up to was not at all sympathetic to his feelings and his attitude was always filled with rage and hostility when it was directed toward him. His mother also called him, her "unfortunate son" and this really made him cringe. He was considered like a typical "pest" in his own house, being isolated into one room and not letting him do anything. His sister was at times alright, but later throughout the novel, their relationship worsened as well. Even though Gregor understood this, the situation just got worse and worse.
As said in the second quote, later Gregor got more associated with the maid who came into to clean his room. Even though at first, she started calling him names such as "dung-beetle", she still had a caring personality for him and it was her who was shocked and really upset over his death. She was an important character in his life as a "bug". The only good part is that now he knows how important he is to his family, and how he was only their provider.

Conclusion
All humans have an innate need for affection. Lack of human interaction or love can lead to the degradation of one’s self worth. Because Gregor was denied the simple feelings of love and acceptance or anything more than a source of income, it was slowly killing him on the inside. Similarly in today’s society, a lack of empathy can lead to disastrous outcomes as in Gregor’s case. Ultimately, starvation did cause Gregor’s death but it was a lengthy process that had begun long before his metamorphosis.
BY: Jia Lou, Haemin Chong, Sakshi Venkatraman, Meghna Suresh
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