Theme of Alienation in The Metamorphosis

Question: Discuss the Theme of Alienation in Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”. Or how does Kafka project Gregor Samsa’s alienation in “The Metamorphosis”? The theme of Alienation in The Metamorphosis.


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) contains a literal variation of Gregor Samsa’s dramatic life. His transformation sheds light on one of the main themes of the novel, isolation or alienation. Basically, today’s society demands according to its norms and if a person refuses to accept these, he will definitely face isolation. Such is the fate of Gregor in the story. Before Gregor was converted, he was cut off from his work, humanity, family, and even his body. The transformation, however, takes the isolation to another level. Gregor’s work in the story feels his isolation from society, his family, and himself.

Only detachment from the physical body

Gregor’s initial alienation is from his physical body, and as the story progresses we see that Gregor’s life as an insect is not very different from his life as a man. From the first few paragraphs, we can realize that Gregor’s transformation has transformed him from a mere body into a less privileged state. He just feels a “dull ache he had never experienced before”. However, Gregor’s transformation does not seem to have caused any emotional change. This is evident when he tries to get up after his transformation and is annoyed that he cannot go to sleep because he cannot turn onto his right side. He also thinks about how he can no longer attend work.

Isolation from himself

Gregor is a traveling salesman, and over time his continuous obsession with his job seems to dehumanize him and make him less personal, but more mechanical. He develops a prudent habit and acquires in traveling by locking all doors during the night, which he brings back into his home, emphasizing the distance between him and his family. We are made to realize, however, that he hates his job. He describes it as “exhausting…irritating work”, and he hates having to travel so much, meeting acquaintances that never become friends, and being mistreated by his boss. He only stays in this position to alleviate his parents’ debts, and dreams of the day he can finally quit and do something more satisfying. Because Gregor can no longer work, he is alienated from the money-driven economy that he lives in, where the norm is that if you are unproductive you become insignificant and repulsive. Gregor’s insect form, which precludes him from earning an income to support his family, strengthens the fact that he is now repulsive in the eyes of his family and society. His value seems just to be a financial one to the extent that family relations have been reduced to economic worth. Thus, before the transformation, Gregor could not realize that he has alienated himself from him.

Isolation from family and society

The idea of Gregor being just a welfare source takes him away from his family. The family only cares about the paycheck that Gregor provides them each month. Gregor may have been slowly changing into a recluse, but his family is blind at this because their only interest is in his provision of funds for them. There are some points in the story where his family really seems to have taken care of his life and current situation, but it is a so-called care because his family desires to have Gregor as a fit man for work. It is nothing else but a selfish motive. For example, when Gregor’s voice can no longer be understood because of his insect form, his mother becomes worried and instantly calls for a doctor, probably to ensure that her son is fit to be at work. But Gregor does not understand the real motive behind his mother’s new concern, which is that he is late for work. Gregor’s family does not know that something is seriously wrong with him until he emerges from his room in a form clearly unfit for work. His father reacts at first by clenching his fists, then breaks down and weeps. His father’s reaction from anger to grief seems to mean that he would likely have had if Gregor had simply announced that he had quit his job. Thus, Gregor becomes the victim of social and familial detachment.


Gregor’s family life does not change much after his transformation because the loss of his relationship with his family members is nothing new. It only takes his isolation to a new level. Gregor dies of a broken heart. He is ostracized by society and his family and is forced to be alone. His work eventually led to his separation from things in life. His transformation brings him to his final state of realization that his life has become meaningless and purposeless.

Click here: For the notes of the novel The Metamorphosis

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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