The Metamorphosis: Theme Analysis
Alienation is the primary theme in Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Indeed, much of early twentieth-century literature takes as its basic premise that man is alienated from his fellow humans and forced to work in dehumanizing jobs. At a young age, Gregor finds that he is responsible for the support of his family and cannot for the life of him see a way out of his predicament. He is forced to forgo a love relationship wherein he could find intimacy with another human and perhaps father children to alleviate his lonely life. Night after night he travels from one lonely hotel room to another selling textiles. When he is at home, he locks himself into his bedroom, a habit he says he developed while traveling but readers can see this as his need to alienate himself even more from his oppressive ever-needy family. His room has three doors, with a family member outside each urging him to get up and go to work so they can continue to live a lavish lifestyle. In addition, Gregor works for a boss who keeps track of his every move, going so far as to send his clerk to Gregor's home when he fails for one day to show up for work.
Gregor's solution to his dilemma is to metamorphose into a gigantic insect. However, this alienates him from his family even more. They shun him, will not look upon him and in time come to abuse him and keep him in filth. When he moves toward them the evening of Grete's concert, it becomes clear that they want him dead and he obliges by alienating himself from them permanently- he dies alone, only to be tossed out by the cleaning lady the following morning.
Gregor is overburdened by guilt. Indeed, guilt kills him. After he awakes one morning to find he has been transformed into a gigantic insect, Gregor shows little concern for himself. Instead, he agonizes about what will happen to his family now that he cannot get up to go to work. In addition, he is concerned about his boss will react. Despite having sacrificed his life for his family, he expects nothing in return and feels guilty that Grete is now forced to bring him food. His guilt about his appearance forces him under the couch so she won't have to endure looking at him.
He feels guilt that now his father will have to get a job instead of sitting around all day reading newspapers in his night gown. He also feels guilt that his mother has to sew to make money, and guilt that Grete has to work in a shop. Guilt, guilt, guilt-it is Gregor's primary emotion. In the end, when he is rejected by Grete for interfering during her concert, Gregor's guilt forces him back into his filthy room to die alone so his family can get on with their lives.