Early one morning, Gregor woke to discover he had transformed into a human-size bug. However, it was not him turning from a young man into a bug in the matter of one night that worried Gregor, but the fact that he was going to be late for work! After reading the first several pages, one might find themself bewildered as to why and how Gregor dealt with this transformation with such stride. No, Gregor had not lost his mind, nor had he expected this situation to ever occur (How could something so singular ever be anticipated for that matter?). It was instead, the mere fact that working as a slave to the relentless, capitalist society he knew as life had alienated Gregor to the point that such a change as becoming a bug was nothing more than a confirmation of his insignificant place in the world.
Attention. A simple word, yet without it, even the proudest slip into the darkest shadows of life. It is essential to human survival, and is the key concept towards understanding the ongoing transformation of Gregor throughout the story. Instead of worrying about their son and his new, awkward condition, Gregor’s parents worried about themselves, and how this tremendous change would affect their lives. What Gregor longed for, a chance to be loved and treated as a part of the family, was sadly what his own parents and sister failed to see all along. They paid no attention to his emotional or physical pain, but rather disowned the idea all together that this “monster” could ever be their real son. “If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life among human beings is not possible with such an animal and would have gone away voluntarily” (p 33). A combination of this complete alienation from his family and Gregor’s lack of a true human identity from the start were both elements of influence on Gregor’s physical and mental “metamorphosis.” Nevertheless, it is through their neglect and ignorance that Gregor is given the chance to attain the freedom he had yearned for all his life. For the first time in his life, he could wake up, free of the stress that so often overwhelmed him- the stress that allowed Gregor to live anything but a normal life, especially for a man so young. He could lounge around all day, without a care in the world. This feckless state of mind gave Gregor a chance to be more human because he, for the first time in his life, was free. Free from the mindless lifestyle inevitable in working class citizens trapped in a world of early wake up calls and endless business trips.
Again, it is in this connection of inner and outer insignificance that one can understand the significance in the meaning behind Gregor’s transformation into a bug. Gregor came to grips with the horrifying and shocking reality of the situation with such ease because on the inside, Gregor had already undergone this shift from being a man of respect and honor, to a- in his mind- worthless workaholic. I other words, Gregor was already a bug on the inside.
Author Franz Kafka’s existentialist philosophy manifests itself at the very heart of the story. No man can say that he has never, at one point in his life, felt like a bug. That is, felt the sense of insignificance and unimportance that is so often linked to that of a bug. Despite this vacuous feeling, Kafka’s story implies that in order to balance personal freedom and responsibility to one’s self with the guilt and demands imposed by society and family, one must avoid conforming with the standards of a “true human” that one is so often force fed by society, and instead learn to love themself, for in order to show real love towards anyone else around them, one must start by loving themself. Yet, to turn around oneself and endeavor at becoming a true human, with love in his heart and more than money on his mind, has and never will be easily accepted by society or even family at times, as in Gregor’s case. However, as distant as one may feel from their friends or family as they stray from society’s widely accepted stereotype of what it means to be a human, when examined closely, we can see that by using one’s heart and not just one’s brain, they are in actuality more human than anybody else; just as by becoming a bug, Gregor had effectively become more human than the rest of his family.
By simply learning to live as a man, with true and pure feelings and emotions, and not as some apathetic machine, the world could put an end to the vicious, inexorable cycle of a capitalist society, and in doing so, break free so many insignificant “bugs” from their shells.