Tragic and comic elements in The Metamorphosis

Question: Bring out the tragic and comic elements in The Metamorphosis. Or, discuss the significance of tragic and comic elements of The Metamorphosis.


The subtle but powerful combination of humor or comedy and tragedy in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is not an accident. Kafka coordinates these genres to perfectly mirror the cruelty of life with a mixture of emotions. The main character Gregor Samsa is used to portray the betrayal that may be present in the family unit as well as in the place of employment. Together, Kafka is making strong comments about life in order to express his feelings of desolation and cynicism about society and the family.

Focusing on excessive materialism

Gregor’s insect transformation, his annoying thoughts about his life, the jokes surrounding his parents and sister, all culminates in the arrival of the Chief Clerk. The chief Clerk gives Gregor a funny speech, reminding him of his business responsibilities and demanding an explanation for his crime of absence. He repeats that he is simply surprised at Gregor’s sense of responsibility because he accepted Gregor as a calm and reliable person but right now Gregor seems determined to make a ridiculous vision of himself. The clerk also mentions that this morning the director suggested a possible explanation for Gregor’s disappearance. Such irrelevant expressions are the symbols of a selfish materialistic world. But Gregor desperately attempts to convince his office manager of his predicament. But the chief clerk runs off suspecting that the gigantic insect is coming to attack him.

Focusing on cruelty and narcissism

When the clerk says:

“However, now when I see how incredibly stubborn you are,

I no longer have the slightest desire to defend you”

It is ridiculous because Gregor was only two hours late and Clark is clearly objecting more. At this point, it is clear that a ruthless, narcissistic, and recalcitrant man is the chief clerk. Although he is Gregor’s only co-worker, Kafka uses this character to represent the brutal behavior of society as a whole.

Another striking example of the comic element is presented when Gregor’s father bombs Gregor with the apples. Gregor actually tries to convince his sister Grete that he is still very caring for her but she misreads him and rushes to her father to save herself. Gregor’s father throws apples towards Gregor very cruelly. As a result, Gregor gets injured at his back. This scene must rise laughter but the hidden truth is that human beings are very selfish and cruel.

To remind yourself

Kafka used The Metamorphosis as an outward expression of his frustration in the face of controversial artist society In the early twentieth century. He continues to develop the connection between Gregor and the ideal artist of his time by showing how selfless and forgotten Gregor is. When Kafka has Gregor say,

“But for the time being, I better get up, since my train leaves at five”.

He is introducing subtle humor because Gregor believes he is able to get up and get ready for work.  Could you imagine that a giant beetle is trying to walk with a view to the attending office? Kafka has thus introduced Gregor’s irrational hope. It is also universal because Kafka has created Gregor to represent the humility and sensitivity found in the stereotypical artists in general. Kafka felt that the modern world did not tolerate passionate and intelligent artists as we see in Gregor’s.

To symbolize the conflict between society and artists

when Gregor’s body was mutilated and reduced, it seems to have all his human sweetness revealed in him. His selfless selflessness, his constant preoccupation with the needs of others – it is the great relief in the context of his abominable misery. Kafka’s art incorporates on the one hand the characteristics of Gregor’s insects and all the tragic details of his insect disguise and on the other hand, includes Gregor’s sweet and subtle self in keeping it bright and limpid before the reader’s eyes. In this way, Kafka uses Gregor’s sensitive nature and horrific transformation as a symbol of the conflict between society and the artist, where society misunderstands the artist and is capable of extreme cruelty. With brilliance, Kafka presents the dramatic tone of Gregor’s early discovery that he is a giant insect with a sense of humor.

Great relief from disgust

The precursor of the ultimate tragedy of Gregor is heard in the declaration of his loving sister “We must try to get rid of it”. Early in the morning, the cleaning woman comes. She finds Gregor lying motionless on the floor. She thought he is pretending that his feelings are hurt. She ultimately opens the bedroom door and shouts at the top of her voice, “come and have a look, it’s lying there dead as a doornail”. Though the tragedy deepens in the death of Gregor, it is a great relief to his parents and sister.


The Metamorphosis is full of dark humor but very philosophic. The novel usually captivates readers, but it is hard to see how a man is neglected when he loses his power. The philosophy here is that The only way to survive from the inconsistencies and contradictions of life is the total acceptance of the combined comic and traumatic elements of life that one must face every day. So, Kafka is starkly perfect for using tragic and comic elements in The Metamorphosis.

Click here: For more notes of the novel

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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