“…from under the bushy eyebrows his alert black eyes flashed penetratingly; his previously disheveled white hair was combed flat, exactingly parted and gleaming.”
Such a description of his father only appears after the transformation, suggesting that such men can wear their illusionary strength only when someone weak is presented to them to bully with.
The author’s clever use of atmosphere accentuates the sardonic, esoteric tone. The constricted space of Gregor’s bedroom with only a window for relief is where most action takes place. As the story progresses Gregor loses his ability to even stare out through the window. Each chapter ends with the protagonist escaping from the dungeon that is his bedroom and into the living room, but only promptly to be driven back by his family. On one such venture out of his room, Gregor decides that he cannot stay in there anymore. That moment is significant in that he immediately dies. The author is implying that when an individual loses a sense of belonging and gives up on contact with others, he perishes, both literally and metaphorically. This interpretation is all the more valid since Kafka himself led the life of a loner unable to communicate with others (Preece 112).
The literary elements are rendered complex by the extremely bleak style that Kafka adopts. The depictions of most characters are quite flat and don’t offer much exploration on their own. However, the character of Gregor is laid out in much detail and depth. In a way this difference in depiction is analogous to the difference in the real depths of these characters themselves. It presents Gregor as someone at a much elevated psychological understanding of himself and the world. He also comes across as someone, whose values are grounded on more enduring aspects of life (Nabokov). This fundamental difference between him and the rest of his family proves decisive and fatal and forestalls his death. There is a moving sequence in the final chapter, when the giant insect that is Gregor becomes so human that he actually develops an ear for music. In his third attempt to escape his room, he is mesmerized by his sister’s music. At this juncture, the author interludes to ask – “Was he a beast if music could move him so?” The question is, of course, rhetorical and the obvious answer is – “No”. He is not really a monstrous beast after all. If anything the “humans” that are his clan are more beastly than he ever was.
Grünbein, D., Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vermin: Metaphor and Chiasm in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, <collection.nlc-bnc.ca>
Nabokov, V., Franz Kafka:” The Metamorphosis.”
Vladimir Nabokov: Lectures on Literature, The Kafka Project, <www.kafka.org>
Preece, J. The Cambridge Companion to Kafka, 2002, Cambridge University Press.