Places: The Metamorphosis

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Die Verwandlung, 1915 (English translation, 1936)

Type of work: Novella

Type of plot: Allegory

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Places DiscussedSamsa apartment

Samsa Metamorphosis, Theapartment. Dwelling, in no particular city, of Gregor Samsa and his family. Comfortable and spacious, the apartment signifies Gregor’s success in providing for his family, which fell on hard times after his father’s business failure. Gregor’s exhausting work as a traveling salesman keeps the family in respectable circumstances. After his metamorphosis, however, the apartment proves to be too big and expensive to maintain. In a sense, it has always been a burden. Gregor selected it, and his support of the family has stimulated a growing lethargy among them. His mother coughs incessantly, his sister is losing her youth to extreme fatigue, and his father has abandoned his role as the head of the family. All of this changes as Gregor changes, and after his death, the family is liberated from the apartment and from Gregor.

Gregor’s bedroom

Gregor’s bedroom. Room in which the story begins, with Gregor’s metamorphosis into a giant insect already an accomplished fact. Though initially alarmed, he soon takes comfort in the familiarity of his bedroom. The room itself changes through the course of the story, in ways that mirror Gregor’s own decline. His furniture is removed to provide him with more space to crawl. After his sister neglects to clean the room, filth begins to accumulate. Eventually, the room becomes a storage space for useless household items–much like Gregor himself. Once a refuge from the toils of his job, the room becomes his cell and ultimately his tomb.

Living/dining room

Living/dining room. Social center of the family, where Gregor’s father once read the newspaper aloud to the family and where Grete played her violin. Immediately after revealing his altered self to the family, Gregor is cut off from this space. Grete keeps the door to his room locked. Each time he ventures out among the family, his father drives him away. Late in the story, the family relents and allows his door to stand ajar in the evening, allowing Gregor a distant view of the family from which he has been excluded. Drawn by the music from Grete’s violin, Gregor enters the living room a final time, to the horror of the three boarders who have taken rooms with the Samsas. Amid the turmoil his presence creates, he finds that his sister, in whom he has placed the last hope of any understanding and future happiness, can no longer stand his presence in the apartment. Without needing to be forced, he retreats to his room, and Grete locks him in. His position within the family is irrecoverable, and his transformation is complete.

Tram car

Tram car. Conveyance on which members of Gregor’s family travel from the apartment to the country in the story’s final scene. They are the only passengers, and the car is filled with warm, morning sunlight. The tram moves quietly into the peaceful countryside, and with it the Samsas discover that their prospects for the future are brighter than anticipated. Gregor’s death has lifted an enormous burden from them, and as his parents watch their young daughter, they see that, despite the recent hardships, she has blossomed into a beautiful woman. With Gregor gone, the family moves, like the tram, toward a peaceful future.

BibliographyBouson, J. Brooks. “The Narcissistic Drama and Reader/Text Transaction in Kafka’s Metamorphosis.” In Critical Essays on Franz Kafka, edited by Ruth V. Gross. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Heinz Kohut’s work on narcissistic disorders suggests a new reading of Gregor’s hostile world, arguing against the theory of depersonalization.Eggenschwiler, David. “The Metamorphosis, Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus.” In Modern Critical Views: Franz Kafka, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. The author traces the psychological origins of the story in Kafka’s life and encourages a recognition of the tension between parable and interpretation.Gray, Ronald. Franz Kafka. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1973. This is the best and most accessible short analysis of Kafka’s work, and it furnishes a literary context for the tale.Hayman, Ronald K. A Biography of Kafka. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981. This biography is a solid and readable account of Kafka’s life.Karl, Frederick R. Franz Kafka: Representative Man. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1991. Karl’s exhaustive study of Kafka’s culture extends the possible interpretations of his work.
Categories: Places