The Metamorphosis

Starving for Attention: Food in Kafka's Metamorphosis

References to food are a recurring theme in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. The food that Gregor eats to strengthen his physical body reflects the attention that he receives from his family to satiate his emotional appetite. As the story progresses, the family grows more distant, and Gregor's eating habits decline until, at the story's end, Gregor dies of physical - and perhaps emotional - starvation.

When Gregor discovers that he has been "transformed into a monstrous vermin" (1640), one of his first concerns is eating breakfast. Even before he discovers a way to crawl out of his bed, Gregor thinks about his hunger. Kafka describes Gregor as "ravenous" and says that he wants "above all [to] have breakfast" (1642), even before contemplating what to do about his condition. The emphasis that Kafka puts on Gregor's appetite indicates that recurring references to food may have some symbolic meaning in the story.

The next time that Kafka mentions food in relation to Gregor is when his sister has left food for him while he was sleeping. Gregor is "hungrier now than in the morning" (1651) and is overjoyed to find that his sister had thoughtfully brought him a bowl of milk, his...

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