IB English A: literature (SL)
February 28th, 2012
Word Count: 1,416
The Meta-Metamorphosis: An In-depth Look into the Metamorphosis of Grete
In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, one can find two forms of metamorphoses. One, being the most apparent, is Gregor’s physical transformation from a man to an insect, and secondly one may find a subtext of a form of transformation of Grete. This transformation is one that allows Grete to switch roles from being a young sister role to a motherly role to Gregor, and to lastly a judge with the decision of Gregor’s death in her hands.
Grete’s first role in the book is that of an ordinary sister to Gregor. Their connection and sibling bond can be viewed as very strong, as when Gregor is still inside his room; his sister is outside his door crying, as though she knew what was happening before he even revealed himself to the outside world. “If only his sister had been there! She was perceptive; she had already begun to cry when Gregor was still lying calmly on his back” (p.13). This connection is further shown when Gregor finds himself chasing after the manager, and he immediately thinks of Grete as the only way of saving him from this unfortunate situation. This thought of how Grete should be used is almost an exploitation of her body, close to how the rest of the family treated Gregor and is a foreshadow of the Grete’s final transformation into the new primary caretaker for the family, as the Samsa family treats him as the only source for money. “And certainly the manager…would have listened to her” (p.13). This is where one may view Gregor’s intentions of exploiting Grete’s young, female figure to resolve his problem as the manager is known to be a fan of women. At one point, right before she becomes the primary caretaker of Gregor, Grete acts as though she is a stranger to Gregor. “But as if she felt sorry for her behavior, she immediately opened the door again and came in on tiptoe, as if she were visiting someone ill or perhaps even a stranger” (p. 17). We see that clearly Grete is uncomfortable seeing Gregor’s new self, but still feels some sort of connection to him as she comes to the decision of returning to the room after having slammed the door in fear from seeing her brother. Although she may feel repulsed by his new appearance, she knows that there is still some form of her brother within the monster, and chooses to take care of him while her parents are getting used to the idea of their son’s new physical appearance.
She began to bring him food, clean his room, and even move one of his chairs to the window, so that he could see the street, all of this to take care of her brother. In a way one could call Grete a mother to Gregor. However, not only was she a mother figure during this period, she was also Gregor’s only real connection to humanity. A part of this change happens through a form of communion, as Grete begins to give Gregor his meals. As Grete gives meals to Gregor, the two become closer in a way. Grete learns more about the new Gregor and finds this a bonding moment for the siblings in the chaos that is the metamorphosis. The first time she put out food for Gregor, she put out all the food Gregor had enjoyed before and added some other rotten goods.
“To find out his likes and dislikes, she brought him a wide assortment of things, all spread out on a newspaper; old, half-rotten vegetables; bones left over from the evening meal, caked with congealed white sauce; some raisins and almonds; a piece of cheese, shich two days before Gregor had declared inedible; a plain slice of bread, a slice of bread and butter, and one with butter and salt” (p.17-18)
When she came back to clean this food, she noticed that he ate the more rotted, decomposed foods, she made the change and brought those types of foods to Gregor for his meals. This little moment can be viewed as a form of communion and show how it brought the two characters together. “Would she notice that he had left the milk standing, and not because he hadn’t been hungry, and would she bring in a dish of something he’d like better?” (p.17). These are the words Gregor wondered as his sister brought his meals to him hoping that she would notice that Gregor was indeed hungry, but was repulsed by the milk she gave him.
However, this communion later is what brings Grete’s resentment towards her brother, and ultimately her decision to get rid of him. Even though the two are not eating together, Grete is giving her brother food, and showing that she still cares for him. This is how the two bond during Gregor’s new self. However, this communion soon changes from a sense of bonding to a chore for Grete to do.
During this new sense of the mother role for Grete, she becomes more mature, and soon decides that all of Gregor’s decisions should be made by her and has no input from the other family members. This begins to cause the tension within the family. As Grete’s role of caretaker grew from pitying her brother to an obligation, she began to resent him.
Grete, having taken the main role of caretaker, begins to feel more mature and makes the decision herself to remove the furniture in Gregor’s room.
“Of course it was not only childish defiance and the self-confidence she had recently acquired so unexpectedly and at such a cost that led her to make this demand; she had in fact noticed that Gregor needed the plenty of room to crawl around in; and on the other hand, as best she could tell, he never used the furniture at all” (p.25)
The quote above shows how Grete’s new role has improved her confidence level, and takes it upon herself to become Gregor’s expert on all decisions related to him.
The resentment Grete felt towards her brother, is what made her decide that it was finally time to “get rid of it”. “’My dear parents,’ his sister said and by way of an introduction pounded her hand on the table, ’Things can’t go on like this. Maybe you don’t realize it, but I do. I won’t pronounce the name of my brother in front of the monster, and so all I say is: we have to get rid of it’” (p.37). She easily convinces her parents, mainly her father, that the bug version of Gregor is no longer Gregor and is now some monster. This sudden resentment towards her brother is also the cause of much tension between Gregor and his family. Grete tries to separate her mother and father away from Gregor. Her protectiveness of her brother begins to tear the family apart, and take away Gregor’s only attachment to humanity. Even as she decides to move all of Gregor’s furniture out of his room, so that he can move around more, she does not see that he needs his furniture to stay closer to humanity, and keep the human part of him alive.
As the novel ends, Grete’s metamorphosis comes full circle as it closes with Mr. and Mrs. Samsa noticing how their daughter has changed into a beautiful young woman. “…as they watched their daughter getting livelier and livelier, that lately, in spite of all the troubles which had turned her cheeks pale, she had blossomed into a good-looking, shapely girl” (p.42). The Samsa’s then proceed to agree that the time came for their daughter to find a husband, one of the first steps into adulthood. “And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when at the end of the ride their daughter got up first and stretched her young body” (p.42). This stretching of her young body is very much like a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly, coming out of a cocoon, coming around to a full circle ending of the character transforming into the young adult.
Grete’s metamorphosis is clear, with Kafka having her go from a girl to a young adult. Her transformation not only affects herself, but the wellbeing of her entire family, though mainly Gregor’s life. As her transformation occurs, she grows from a child who sympathizes with her older brother to becoming a more mature adult who has the right to decide the future of her brother.
* Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Trans. Stanley Corngold. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1972. Print. Norton Critical.