Gregor’s Metamorphosis

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Updated: Jun 20, 2022
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In Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” and Alice Walker’s, “The Color Purple,” we see that the family dynamics of the characters lack a sense of communication, due to an uneven balance of power. In walker’s novel Celie and Albert fail to share crucial life altering information with one another like the fact that Nettie is alive or that Celie is not attracted to men. Albert holds all the power in the relationship and Celie is just expected to do whatever he says.

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In Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” when Gregor morphs into a bug, at first, he does not know he has lost the power to communicate with his family. When he realizes they don’t understand him and he can no longer work, he loses the power he held in the family, to his father. This leads to his isolation and eventual death. Both authors depict a failure of communication in family dynamics which creates isolation, submissiveness, and a lack of confidence, but the characters ability to overcome that failure depends on their potential to find alternative forms of communication.

The Dominance Albert has over Celie is not entirely out of his need to feel superior. He is a victim of the cycle of tyranny, when Albert marries his first wife and assumes the role of patriarch, he acts out all the lessons his father taught him. He punishes the women in his life and neglects his children. By the time he marries Celie, Albert is truly a hateful, brutish, and lazy man. In this quote we see the way Albert fails to communicate with Celie and his children as a result of the preeminence he has over them; “He don’t say nothing. They try to get his tension, he hide hind a puff of smoke” (Walker 16). He expects her to do all the work around the house, care for his rude children, and gratify his sexual needs upon demand; to make himself feel more important and in control, he regularly beats her. Celie puts up with his cruelty for years because she believes shutting her mouth and doing as she’s told is the only way to survive. Facing the overwhelmingly powerful patriarchal culture, Celie unresistingly places herself under the domination and authority of men, as revealed in her way of naming men, her fear of men and of God.

Throughout “The Color Purple,” Walker makes it clear that storytelling and communication are crucial to self-understanding. By this point in the novel, we have seen problems due to failed communication between Celie and Albert. Celie’s discovery of her true family history brings about a major change in her pattern of communication, as she develops surrogates for God and her parents, in the form of other women. After learning of her tragic background, Celie feels that she has lost some of her faith in God and closes what she intends to be her final letter to God by chiding, “You must be sleep” (Walker 177). Instead, Celie begins to write letters to Nettie. Likewise, though Celie is unable to locate her parents’ graves, to which she looks for closure, Shug tells Celie, “Us each other’s peoples now” (Walker 183). These strong, surrogate ties that Celie makes with other women allow her to create a new family in the face of the tragedies she has endured. Celie ceases to wait for the kingdom of heaven and begins to search for peace and happiness in her own life.

It is sad to think of how much fear Celie had when it came to communication. Whether it was how she was feeling, something that she wanted, or a question she had, she hardly every communicated it. The reason she is so afraid is because of the Power Albert has over her. He is so dominant and abusive that she knows she must not communicate with him and share her feelings if she wants to remain alive. However, she does freely communicate with God in her letters. It is heartbreaking to see that she does not hesitate in telling him how she is feeling or what she wants, so it isn’t as if she is confused about that. While communication with Albert would not have fixed everything for Celie, it may have made things somewhat easier for her, therefore it is upsetting to think about how she never put it out there, never let on to what she needed. Her life might have been so different had she started communicating early on, by talking about what her father or Albert was doing to her. She would have spoken the words aloud that she wrote in her letters to God. God is Celie’s salvation for most of the book, by communicating with God through letters, she is able to maintain a certain sanity because in this situation she has power because she is the master of what she writes down. But with Albert he is the one with power over her.

Celie writes her story disregarding tradition, structure and language, for herself, rather than to get her voice out to a society that had a history of ignoring the voice of women, the African Americans, and African Americans women. However, finding a listener and finding her voice are inextricably related as the exchange of the letters between the characters in the novel helped her bring out a stronger, dignified self. She was desperate to communicate with someone because she could not so with her husband and her lost sister so she chose God. The irony in this is that it was her father who told her “you better not ever tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” (Walker 1). In addition to that she visualized God as being a man “anyhow I say, the God I been praying and writing to is a man” (Walker 192). Her only way of escape and communication was still part of the mail dominated society but it worked for her because in this case she was in control.

When Celie finally stands up for herself “you lowdown dog is what’s wrong, I say. It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation. And your dead body just the welcome mat I need” (Walker 199). Albert cannot believe that Celie is actually leaving him. He cannot understand why she has not been happy, for the only system he has ever known is the patriarchal one that he follows. Now she has communicated with him and rejected this system he is forced to live by himself. Without a woman to serve him, he softens, learning to care for his children, work for a living, do his own housework, love other people, and appreciate the little things in life. When Celie returns to live in Georgia, he comes close to apologizing to her, saying that he did not know how to appreciate her when they were married. He tries to befriend her, helping her in her work and designing shirts to go with the pants that she makes and sells. Still, by the end of the novel, Albert is a gentle character whom Celie can forgive and communicate with because the balance of power is now equal. The moment she stands up for herself is the moment his respect for her begins to bloom, eventually leading to a relationship where they are equals and no one person dominates the other.

Understanding Gregor was something that his parents failed to do. Even before his metamorphosis, there was a communication problem within the family. After he transformed into a bug the lack of communication just got worse. They failed to realize that, even as a bug, Gregor was still there and that he could understand everything they had to say. He was now a nuisance to his family and especially his father who now reclaimed the power I the family because of Gregor’s condition. Many times, Gregor tried to show his loyalty, “but the more humbly he bent his head his father only stamped on the floor the more loudly” (Kafka 86). His sister, whom Gregor trusted most, even tried to convince his parents that Gregor is no longer with them. “My dear parents, she said, things can’t go on like this. I won’t utter my brothers name in the presence of this creature and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it “(Kafka 124). The inability to communicate with his sister and parents was a major contributor to his downfall.

In “The Metamorphosis,” by Franz Kafka, Gregor’s evolution to an insect symbolizes the loss of thorough communication, representing the disconnection of the individual from his family and his surroundings. Through this metamorphosis, the family begins to remove itself from any past interactions with Gregor. In addition, the setting and surroundings of Gregor completely overcome him and persuade him to lose hope. The family and surroundings, not the change to an insect, lead Gregor towards death. Not only do the uncontrollable surroundings change Gregor, but so does the family. Gregor’s entrapment inside of the bedroom forces the realization of the isolation and alienation from society into his mind. Gregor’s life as an insect. “No plea of Gregor’s helped, no plea was even understood; however humbly he might turn his head, his father merely stamped his feet more forcefully […] he drove Gregor on, as if there were no obstacle […] his father gave him a hard shove, which was truly his salvation, and bleeding profusely, he flew far into his room” (Kafka 30). Again, Mr. Samsa’s behavior toward Gregor is brutal. Instead of trying to understand Gregor, he’s more intent on punishing him. Gregor cannot work anymore so he no longer holds the power in the family. It has now transferred back to his father who refuses to communicate with the creature his son has become. Once Gregor is unable to communicate, he becomes an observer of the world around him. His insect form symbolizes the emptiness, insignificant and an outcast, which he was at work and at home.

Communication is key to any family dynamic; without communication no one knows what is going on and people get isolated. In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the family’s communication, or lack thereof, is a big problem. Gregor’s metamorphosis into a world of complete isolation is seen through four stages of communication. Gregor understands what his family is saying when he first morphs into a bug and he assumes that his family can understand him as well. “Because the door was made of wood, the alteration in Gregor’s voice was probably not noticeable, since his mother was pacified by that explanation” (Kafka 13). Gregor has to explain why he didn’t go to work and since his mother never said anything about not being able to hear him, Gregor assumes that his voice has changed in only the slightest way. There are no telling factors to help Gregor come to the realization that his family can’t understand him. Gregor starts to become more isolated from his family because he thinks/assumes that they can understand him. Gregor finally realizes that his metamorphosis into a bug has changed his whole being, including his voice. “He now realizes that his speech was no longer intelligible, even though it had seemed clear enough to him, clearer than before, perhaps because his ears were getting used to it” (Kafka 19). Gregor wants to communicate with his family but he has lost the “only” way of communicating. His voice doesn’t register with his family and because of this slight problem, Gregor is even more isolated from his family. “In order to restore his voice to its maximum clarity for the imminent decisive discussions, he cleared it a little by coughing, but took care to do this in very muffled tones, since possibly even that noise might sound different from human coughing, and he no longer trusted himself to make the distinction” (Kafka 19). Gregor doesn’t want to be different and so he tries to muffle his coughing just in case it sounded funny. That is the first time that Gregor grasps the fact that he can’t even trust his own judgment anymore because he truthfully doesn’t know what he sounds like. Gregor’s lines of communication have been cut off from any other human beings. All is not an utter catastrophe now that Gregor is unable to work. With her new responsibilities, Grete has a new sense of self-sufficiency and independence that her parents appreciate. Gregor’s dismal projection about his family’s life without him is proven false; in fact, it hints that his evaluation of his importance to the family is overblown.

The stages in Gregor’s isolation directly correspond to his stage of communication. The less communication that Gregor has the more isolated he became. The real turning point in the story was when Gregor’s father threw the apple at him, after that there was no coming back. Both parties gave up and it was time for Gregor to die. The communication, verbal, makes it hard for both parties. Gregor and his father enter into a more negative nonverbal communication. The one-time Gregor leaves the room, the father takes Gregor’s actions to be menacing and proceeds to throw things at Gregor. “It was an apple; another flew at him immediately afterward; Gregor stood still in fright; to continue running was pointless, because his father had decided to bombard him” (Kafka 38). The non-verbal communication between Gregor and his sister and Gregor and his father are polar opposites. The sister took a more friendly, humane approach to dealing with the metamorphosis, whereas the father is freaked out, hungry to regain his power in the household, and can’t even deal with the tension anymore. This instance is when the reader first starts to see the family begin to give up on Gregor which is his fourth and final stage in his isolation and lack of communication.

In “The Color Purple” Celie’s ability to find alternative forms of communication is what helps her change her life for the better. She changes her perspective and stands up for herself to Albert, this is how she changes her own narrative as well. Despite her hardships she is able to live in a good sustainable community. Also, her sense of family does not necessarily have to do with blood. Celie finds out what she is good at but she does have to surrender her faith in order to get there. Celie has people supporting her, people with whom she can communicate. In “Metamorphosis” Gregor does not find an alternative form of communication for his life to get better because he doesn’t have the chance. His family is not helpful, even his dad is hiding a secret from him in regards to how much money he has like Celie did he is at rock bottom. His situation is a side effect of all he has had to endure. He does everything for his family as the breadwinner to fulfill his societal role he has a job but he hates it and even at work they treat him as an insect. Gregor does not have a support system, thus preventing him from even finding any other form of communication.

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Gregor’s Metamorphosis. (2022, Jun 20). Retrieved from