The Metamorphosis

What can you infer about Gregor's relationship with his mother and father?

Chapter 1

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Gregor's father, extremely concerned that Gregor continue making money, does not make any himself. This fact is emphasized by the mention that he spends several hours a day at breakfast reading newspapers. Moreover, Gregor's parents are in debt to his chief, and he is working primarily to repay that debt; he has already been working at the firm for five years, and must work another five or six before the debt is repaid. Not only does the rest of the family do no work, relying entirely on Gregor, but they even keep on a servant girl to clean for them.

While Gregor's parents and his sister are bound to each other by more traditional family ties, his relation to them is redefined in terms of the new economy in the way that Marx and Engels had described. Gregor is thus a virtual slave of his family, forced into hated labor for their welfare, and there seems to be little sign that the rest are trying to pitch in and help. He seems, however, to feel no bitterness. On the contrary, Gregor's primary feeling is one of guilt.

Though Gregor personally does not express any sentiment against his family, several clues in this chapter are dropped to tip us off as to the nature of his relation to them. When Gregor's voice through the door can no longer be understood, his mother becomes worried and instantly sends for the doctor. Gregor observes that "people now believed that something was wrong with him, and were ready to help him." He does not seem to notice the opposite side of this, which was that before it was clear that anything was seriously wrong, his family seemed to be concerned only that he was late to work. When Gregor emerges from his room to show the others what has happened to him, his father at first clenches his fists and appears hostile, then breaks down and weeps. It is not at all clear that the father is actually concerned for his son. He seems, rather, to be concerned for their livelihood, and when Gregor emerges in a form clearly unfit for work, his father at first seems simply to be angry with him as if Gregor were playing hooky. The father's reaction, a transition from anger to grief, is the same he would likely have had if Gregor had simply announced that he had quit his job.