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"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug."—Opening line
The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is a 1915 novella by Franz Kafka, about the salesman Gregor Samsa who wakes up one day to find he has been inexplicably transformed into a gigantic cockroach-insect... thing, focusing primarily on his attempts to cope with this situation and his family's attempts to continue their life, of which Gregor was the breadwinner.
Not to be confused with The Metamorphoses, an epic poem by the Roman author Ovid.
The Metamorphosis provides examples of the following:
- Big Brother Instinct: Gregor is determined to save the money to send Grete to the conservatory to refine her violin, despite their parents' constant rebukes.
- Body Horror
- Book Ends: The story opens with Gregor's transformation and ends with imagery lending Grete a transformation of her own.
- Creepy Cockroach
- Incest Subtext: Gregor gets creepily possessive of Grete and imagines kissing her neck, among other things.
- Informed Deformity (in its Theater adaptation, for obvious reasons)
- Just Woke Up That Way
- Life Embellished: What with the overbearing father, questionable affections for a sister, and self-deprecating protagonist, the semi-autobiography angle is difficult to completely deny.
- Lost in Translation/Woolseyism: Kafka's original German manuscript used a peculiar grammar structure for dramatic effect, which could not be translated into English. The German word was not technically "insect", either but a colloquial term analogous to a child using the English word "bug".
- Meaningful Name
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Gregor is technically able to talk to his family at first, but begins to acquire more insect-like behaviors over time.
- Mundane Fantastic: Gregor's family, not to mention himself, treat his transformation as bothersome and disgusting, but not as unnatural. Gregor is not at all surprised by it, and never thinks about why it happened.
- That Thing Is Not My Child: Gregor Samsa's family slowly stops believing the bug was ever their son to begin with, and eventually just leave him to die alone in his room.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Gregor dies as a giant insect, while his family moves on to a better life without him.
- Shout-Out: In The Producers, the con men read through piles of literature to find material that would make for a terrible theatrical show. One of them picks up this story, reads the opening line, and groans "It's too good."
- The Sound of Martial Music: The story takes place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
- Take Our Word for It: Kafka was adamant about Gregor as a bug never actually being depicted visually.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The characters have a fairly dull reaction to Gregor's inexplicable transformation into a giant bug, all things considered. It's treated as a burden rather than a horrific and traumatizing sight that forces them to question reality.-- The family's relative lack of reaction has led some people to interpret the story as Gregor only thinking he has become an insect. His family is reacting to his bizarre behavior and insect-like sounds, not his appearance.
- Was Once a Man
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Gregor's feelings towards his father, who violently disowns him after his transformation.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- Youngest Child Wins: Grete, the little sister who works as a salesgirl, moves on to a better life in the end...to a degree. It's heavily implied that her parents will move on to exploiting her with Gregor dead and gone.