The Impact of Isolation in “The Metamorphosis”
Isolation can be defined as the lack of contact with people and the story of “The Metamorphosis” is filled with isolation. After reading “The Metamorphosis,” Gregory Samsa and each of the individual family members made a choice that impacted the story in different ways. Some of their choices were deliberate and some were not. In any case, Gregory and his family were all placed in impossible situations and were determined to find a way to survive in an incomprehensible world. While the metamorphosis of Gregory is disturbing enough, the shame and disgust of the family finally turns their treatment of Gregory to resentment. The characters within this story fluctuate around fear and love, but most of all isolation. In this paper, I will attempt to discuss the impact of isolation upon Gregory and each of his family members.
As the story goes, Gregory Samsa wakes up one morning to find out that he had been transformed into a giant bug. Even before he is faced with the agony of this awkward body, he must deal with abandoning his job and separation from his family. The uncertainty of all this was very upsetting and all he could do was barricade himself in his room at the moment. He had no friends or love interests – just his family and his work as a traveling salesman. He was all alone and going through a situation that was unlike anything imaginable. In seclusion and solitude, he realized that he would be an inconvenience to his family who he loved and worked to make happy. It was a choice he made to stay hidden and even after time passed, his sister, Meg, still found the sight of him to be unbearable. To spare her feelings, he took the sheet from his bed and arranged it over the couch in a way so that it covered him completely when he hid under it. He could remain hidden from his sister even if she bent down. Gregory could tell his sister was relieved with the new arrangement. So that is where he remained throughout much of the story, under the couch in shame and he felt very much at home there. As time went by, loneliness resulted from his long-term isolation. No one dared touch him or show him compassion in any way. Even the apple that was lodged in his back was left to rot. He ate less and less. His room even became the spot where excess things were stored because of the lodgers that moved in. Gloom and depression set in and he did not move for days. He lay motionless in the darkest corner of his room, unnoticed by his family. Just before his death, Gregory covered in dust and scraps of food from his room, decided to make one last venture toward the living room to listen as his sister played the violin. As luck would have it, he was spotted by one of the lodgers. They were shocked to find out that a large bug was living in the room next to theirs. Gregory’s father felt an urgent need to get rid of him and forced him back to his room. Gregory is now referred to as an “it” whose death is wished by the whole family. Gregory’s death is momentarily mourned, but in reality is seen as a new lease on life to his family. With his chosen passiveness and isolation, he becomes an accomplice in his own fate,
Up to this point, Gregory and his mother have been cut off from being in the same room together. As a mother, I believe we are taught to love our children no matter what the circumstances may be. For Gregory’s mother, this is certainly a tough battle for her. She knows that she must remain isolated from her son, who has been the bread winner of the family for the past 5 years, but she is curious to see what he has become. For some time, the father and daughter have had to restrain her by force to keep her from going into Gregory’s room. But, when thinking about Gregory’s mother and the effect isolation from her son had on her character, the scenario that stands out most in my mind is the day mother and daughter decide to move furniture out of Gregory’s way so he has move crawl-space to move about in his room. How terrible could it be to see your beloved son in some other state of being? Sometimes the imagination can be worse than the real thing. As the story would have it, the mother, by mistake, spots Gregory hanging on the wall when she enters his room without notice. She ends up in shock and unconscious on the couch. The decision has been made by the family. Mother and Gregory are now cut off from each other. Now that she has encountered Gregory, the mother decides to go to work. She chooses to neglect Gregory and decides to spend her time lying on the sofa with the window open to somehow isolate herself from the madness of the situation.
The father handles his isolation in a different fashion. At the first sight of Gregory, his father hisses and clenches his fist as if to force Gregory back into his room. He then sat down in the living room and cried. Now that Gregory could no longer work and support the family, the father was plunged into utter despair. He had not worked for the past 5 years and was not in good health. Gregory’s father was left with very little money from his business that ended in a catastrophe. Resentment set in and Gregory was no longer welcome in the living room or any other part of the house where his father resides. At one point in the story, in an effort to apologize to his father for upsetting his mother at the first sight of him, Gregory decides to enter the living room to speak with his father. Gregory’s father quickly reaffirms his position of authority and beats the beetle back into his room; first with the newspaper and the clerk’s cane, and later with a bombardment of apples from the family table. Physically and mentally this is too much for the father to bear. He now prefers the isolation of his newspaper and chair. Gregory is only a burden to him now.
His sister chose not to isolate Gregory from her life – at least not at first. She was the first person to cry when Gregory did not answer the door for the chief clerk. She is caring and kind toward her brother and lives in the bedroom next to his. Meg brings food to her brother on a daily basis and leaves the bowl inside the door on the floor. At first she is worried that he is not eating and does not know what to feed him. She is fearfully cautious and each day after his meal would withdraw from the room and lock the door – to keep him in but also allow him to go about the room as he pleased. Upon entering Gregory’s his room, she would slowly turn the key to give him enough time to hide beneath the couch again. Toward the end of the story it was Meg who actually announced that the family must be rid of him. She says it would be easier of they would no longer think of him as Gregory. Meg is finished taking care of him. She is finished with the anxiety and alienation within their family. She is finished with Gregory.
Gregory, as well as each family member, all struggle in their own ways to deal with the isolation that prevails in their bizarre world. Each character goes through an emotional metamorphosis, while Gregory also deals with his physical changes as well. The father and mother are ineffectual and eventually choose to ignore Gregory while the daughter makes the decision to care for him and then in the end to rid the family of him. This incomprehensible situation turns a loving family into a family of shame, resentment and isolation. Finally it is the cleaning woman that sweeps him up and tosses him out with the trash. In the end, the isolation of the mother, father and sister are replaced with a celebration of Gregory’s death. They decide to travel out of town in the sunshine and open air and make plans for the future.