The Human That Never Was

Graphic by Sumit Kumar

We’ve all been late to work or college sometime or the other in our lives. The frantic frenzy that follows, from getting off the bed to dressing up, tripping over yourself to stuffing whatever there is for breakfast and rushing out the door. But imagine finding your body transformed into something you do not recognise. That is how Gregor Samsa finds himself in the morning before work, very late and looking like a vermin as the book begins.

Metamorphosis is as ‘kafkaesque’ as any of Franz Kafka’s books could be. Nightmarish and outlandish at the same time. The story progresses based on how things and life around Gregor Samsa change owing to the new development that has taken place with respect to his physical attributes. It shows the downfall of Samsa’s value and dignity in his household where he was otherwise the breadwinner and the one to make decisions. We meet the rest of Gregor’s family, his parents and his sister Grete and their changing behaviour towards him over time. It is quite often the smallest incidents that make us ponder, like when an apple hurled at Gregor by his father in anger gravely wounds him and he is not tended to or when his sister, who used to be the only one who genuinely cared about him, turns against him. As readers we are shown the progression of the story from Gregor’s perspective, making us empathise deeply with him. We see the emotional turmoil within Gregor, the family’s inability to digest and accept that their son is now a vermin to treat him at par is not too far fetched to comprehend. 

However, while the title of the story would lead one to think that it refers to Gregor Samsa and his metamorphosis into a vermin, it could also mean the ways situations around and within him changed. Having turned into a vermin made him rudimentary and as though he had nothing but survival instincts left. This was the same person who prioritised his family and his responsibility towards them over his sanity and happiness.  At the same time, we see the family adapting to the situation. From letting part of the house out on rent to keep their means of livelihood intact and showing their displeasure against Gregor when he does not help them but rather seems to act more like a petulant pest, to seeing themselves change- all too much to the extent that the parents see Grete as a capable grown woman now as opposed to how she barely got any attention earlier.

Regardless, the story leaves you confused and hopeful till the end but leaves you hanging and crestfallen. It shows how humanity is what holds people together, or rather the visual perception of it. All the value that Gregor held as a human just disappeared once he stopped looking like one; as though he never was a human. It is absolutely heart wrenching, as we see Gregor die of starvation and lack of love or sympathy. Despite the sheer absurdity of the main plotline, the story does hold the ability to leave the readers shaken.

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