The Metamorphosis

Who comes to live with the Samsas? What might be the significance of these new characters? Why did Kafka not give their names or individual characteristics?

part 3

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The family's relation to the lodgers is another strange episode of the novel. The lodgers, though the family views them as gentlemen, are clearly only caricatures of proper human beings. They are rude and domineering, and care far more about order and cleanliness than about human beings. Their obsession with putting everything in its place and not tolerating dirt invites a contrast with Gregor who, an insect lying in a room full of junk and dirt, is still more human than they are.

The family, seeing the lodgers as another source of money, is subservient to them at all times, bowing to them, not sitting in their presence, waiting until they inspect their food, and so on. Mr. Samsa, when he fears that Grete's violin playing is bothering the lodgers, is instantly willing to stop it immediately for their pleasure. In this way, the family is imprisoned in their own home. While, in the past, they could return home from the dehumanizing experience of work and relax together, now they can never relax and are always servants, whether at work or home.

There is an interesting passage where Gregor observes the lodgers eating. "I'm hungry enoughŠ but not for that kind of food. How these lodgers are stuffing themselves, and here am I dying of starvation." In the text, this thought is explained by the comment that Gregor cannot chew with toothless jaws. But there is an underlying message here. Gregor does not name the food he is hungry for. We can also notice that he stops eating at about the time when Grete begins to neglect him. Gregor is looking for a nourishment other than food; he wants attention and love, something that he has now been cut off from.

When Grete begins to play the violin in the living room, something stirs in Gregor. As he crawls out of his room drawn by the sound, "he felt hardly any surprise at his growing lack of consideration for the others; there had been a time when he prided himself on being considerate." Gregor's lack of consideration, however, is only a somewhat belated response to his family's lack of consideration for him. Having been treated with neglect, he now neglects them in return, crawling out of the room in plain view of everyone. Gregor is now free: not only does he not have to work, but he is also no longer bothered by guilt. As an insect, he doesn't seem to need much more freedom than that. He has finally escaped all the traps that had been set for him.