Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” chronicles the life of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes up one day transformed into a hideous giant bug. His ability to verbally communicate with others is gone and we witness the deterioration of his family’s relationship with him.
Samsa, having been the primary bread winner for the family pre-transformation, has now become obsolete in his home. His family first takes care of him out of duty but as the story progresses it is clear they no longer see the humanity in him and begin to treat him like vermin. His room is literally turned into the house dumpster and the consideration that used to go into his care-taking becomes non existent. The foreshadowing of Samsa’s ultimate demise is probably this particularly tragic scene where he gets stoned into oblivion with apples by his father, the latter thinking Samsa was endangering his wife.
What makes the story more poignant is that we see all these events unfold through Samsa’s point of view. It is ironic that Samsa has the most human characterization. He is considerate, kind and empathetic to the plight of his family, while they, in return, grow cold and distant when they realize he is now useless to them. To be fair, they’ve been through a change of epic proportions but they become rather callous about the whole affair in no time.
The novella is a fine commentary on the value of a person in our modern day capitalist society. It resonates with the idea that we are all replaceable gears in this giant machine and the moment we outlive our usefulness we don’t matter anymore.