The novella The Metamorphosis was written by Franz Kafka in 1912. It tells the story of the tragedy of a salesman, Gregor Samsa, who turned into a gigantic insect, but still possessed a human mind. He and his family lived in a rented apartment, which was possible due only to Gregor’s efforts—his father went bankrupt and mostly sat at home reading newspapers, and his mother was in poor health. Gregor also had a sister named Greta, who was learning to play a violin, and he dreamed that someday, when he had covered his father’s debts, he could pay for her to study at a conservatoire.
The novel begins with the description of how Gregor Samsa awoke in his bed and discovered he had turned into a beetle. The author emphasizes the most horrible fact for Gregor is not becoming an insect, but how he had missed the train and being late for work (Kaftka 8). Events begin to heat up when his mother, and then other members of the household, start to knock on his door, thinking he is still asleep. Finally, Gregor’s boss pays him a visit. Astonished, Gregor cries out he is just a little ill and he still can catch the train at 8 AM—but no one seems to understand what he is saying. His boss says Gregor’s voice sounds like it belonged to an animal. At last, Gregor himself manages to open the door, and everybody could see the creature he had become.
An important element is how Kafka writes in a manner that excludes himself from the story. Stated succinctly, he is not emotional about his characters’ destiny. He only describes what happens, without giving any evaluation of it, or taking someone’s side.
After Gregor appears in a doorway, in his new form, everyone becomes shocked. The boss runs away, Gregor’s mother panics, and his father suddenly grabs a stick and drives his son back into the room, inflicting an injury on him.
After these stressful events, events begin to settle down, turning into a succession of monotonous days. Little by little, Gregor starts to become acquainted with his new situation. He learns how to crawl over walls and even becomes fond of hanging on his ceiling. But, at the same time, Kafka notices that, despite his new horrible form, Gregor is still human. He can understand others, and he spends plenty of time standing near the door and listening to what the members of his family are saying. He feels they are disgusted by his appearance, and are afraid to come into his room, except Greta, who brings him food and does some cleaning up.
One day, Greta thinks Gregor could use a bit more space to crawl, so she decides to rid his room of furniture. Both women gather their courage and go in. It is the first time the mother entered her son’s room after his transformation; she is scared and Gregor hides under the bed, watching his belongings being carried out. It hurts him to see how he is being deprived of a normal living place, and finally it damages him so much that he comes out of his refuge to defend the last object he has: a portrait of a woman, which is hanging on the wall. When his mother sees him, in his new likeness, she loses consciousness. At this moment, father returns home, and when Greta tells him that mother is unconscious and Gregor “has unleashed,” he flares up, grabs a vase with fruits and starts to throw apples in his son’s direction. When Gregor tries to escape, one of these apples wounds him, and gets stuck in his shell.
After this accident, Gregor’s health deteriorates even more, his sister quits cleaning up his room, and his family members, more and more, often call him “it.” They start to rent rooms to three men, and one day, they also see Gregor. After another scandal, Greta says they cannot live like this anymore, and everyone agrees with her. And a couple of days later, a housemaid finds Gregor’s dead body. “Come and look. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s lying there. It’s completely snuffed it!” the cleaning woman cried out (Kaftka 237).
With Gregor’s death, the surroundings start to appear fairly normal to other households, and they feel great relief. Kafka finishes his novel with a description of how the family sits in a tram, and animatedly discuss their plans for the future.
Kaftka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York. Opus Books, 2008. Print.
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Writing a Summary Essay
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of The Metamorphosis by Kafka in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from The Metamorphosis at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Family Ties
One of the saddest aspects of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is the fact that young Gregor genuinely cares about his family. From the opening of the story, he is shown to be a person who works hard to support his family, even though they do little for themselves. When Gregor morphs into a cockroach, however, the limits of familial loyalty and empathy are tested. Gregor is rejected from the family and Kafka seems to be making the point that there is no such thing as unconditional love.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Character Analysis of Gregor in The Metamorphosis
From the very opening of The Metamorphosis, Gregor is portrayed as a somewhat pathetic character. He works hard for his family in a job that he detests, and receives little, if any, recognition for his efforts. He wants the best for each of his family members, and he wants desperately to be loved by them. When Gregor turns into a cockroach, he is unable to live with the fact that his family will never love him and will always ostracize him. Unfortunately, Gregor does not experience a profound transformation of his character in the same way that he experiences a transformation of his physical body. Although he recognizes that his family will never embrace him, he has difficulty living with this fact. For more information on this topic, check out this extensive analysis of Gregor in “The Metamorphosis” and look for thematic ties on this and other topics listed here for more focus.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Symbol of the Cockroach in The Metamorphosis by Kafka
Kafka’s choice of a cockroach was said to be random and unintentional; however, the fact that the author selected the lowest and most hated of insects, portrayed as dirty, disease-ridden, and disgusting, is profoundly symbolic. By turning Gregor into a cockroach rather than another creature, Kafka sets up a situation in which it is impossible for Gregor’s family to accept him and even more importantly, this makes Gregor feel guilty and trapped. There is no chance for catharsis or connection, and the symbol of the cockroach permits the tension of this psychological dilemma to be exploited to its maximum.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Irony in The Metamorphosis
The reader does not fail to notice the profound irony in The Metamorphosis. Although Gregor has been transformed into the lowest of all creatures, he actually is more human in his thoughts and feelings than any of the other characters in this tale. Kafka seems to be making an astute observation about the nature of humanity in The Metamorphosis, namely, that human beings are not necessarily the most evolved of all creatures.
For more assistance with “The Metamorphosis” the following articles may be helpful to you :Character Analysis of Gregor in “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka • The Themes of Claustrophobia and Guilt in Kafka’s Metamorphosis•Transformation & Narration in Metamorphosis, Gulliver’s Travels and The Death of Ivan Ilych
This list of important quotations from The Metamorphosis will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from The Metamorphosis by Kafka listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Kafka's Metamorphosis they are referring to.
“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect." (64)
“Ah, well, I haven’t given up hope yet; once I’ve got the money together to pay back what my parents owe…that should be managed in five or six years…I’ll make a clean break. (65)
“That gentle voice! Gregor gave a start when he heard his own voice coming in an answer…." (66)
“Gregor was still here and had no intention at all of deserting his family." (70)
“… of course it was the uncertainty that was upsetting the others and that excused their behavior." (70)
“It was true that the words he uttered were evidently no longer intelligible, despite the fact that they had seemed clear enough to him, clearer than before, perhaps…." (73)
“The chief clerk had to be stopped, soothed, persuaded, and finally won over; the very future of Gregor and his family depended upon it!" (76)
“No plea of Gregor’s availed…." (77)
“If only it hadn’t been for that intolerable hissing noise that came from his father! It made Gregor lose his head completely." (78)
“[T]hey stood in a circle round Gregor’s corpse, with their hands in their pockets…." (110)
Here is a link to a great animated telling of The Metamorphosis… Very Cool!
Reference: Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Crown, 2003.