1.) Explain how Gregor Samsa'a metamorphosis into a giant insect is symbolic of his earlier life and relations with his family.
When Gregor Samsa wakes up and first notices that he's been transformed into a gigantic insect, he barely seems to acknowledge it, perhaps still believing it part of his "uneasy dreams." All he CAN think about, at first, is his job, and the fact that he is already late for it, and the suspicion and petty humiliations he will endure from his boss if he doesn't show up, no matter what his condition. At least, so he believes--- until a clerk comes calling from his office, and discovers the truth; despite this most peculiar circumstance, Gregor is left alone, apparently forgotten, by those whom he had so feared. Nobody even comes to reclaim his case full of fabric samples; the boss, who has held the ruin of Gregor's father over the son's head, in order to make him submit to all the abuse and miserable work conditions to pay off Mr. Samsa's debts, vanishes from his life forever.
Then, the parents and sister whom Gregor had thought of as helpless to survive without the former upper-middle-class comforts to which they'd been accustomed, all manage to find steady, if not immediately prosperous, employment. Gregor soon understands just how much of himself went into supporting this trio, when the sum of their combined wages still doesn't cover all their living expenses, as his salary and commissions had. As further irony, Gregor finds out that his father HAS held on to some of his former wealth. Thus, he comes to realize that all his work and sacrifice of his leisure, his chances to accumulate his own nest-egg, and, thus, opportunity of escape to a more normal life for a young man, may have been for nothing.
Gregor's despair is compounded when his family, which has shown little enough appreciation in the past, almost immediately begins to treat him all the worse. His father, who since his downfall, has lived like a leech off his son's efforts, is still a fearsome figure to his wife and mild-mannered children. Though, for 5 years, he has not made a move to find another job, it seems he resents both, being supported, and his son's relative success at doing so. Then, when Gregor is struck down with an ailment that isn't his fault, and ends up losing his career, Mr. Samsa becomes increasingly enraged, and, less than satisfied with the lowly job he is forced to take (the only part he enjoys is the uniform), finds excuses to physically abuse the hapless insect, even causing an injury that will eventually lead to his son's death.
Gregor does not seem to have had a very warm relationship with his mother, but he and his young sister Grete are more like her in temperament, mostly gentle and passive. Mrs. Samsa, too, has become dependent on his support, not used to cleaning her own apartment alone, or even cooking. However, she does love him in her own way, stands between him and his father's temper whenever possible, and is even concerned about his lack of a social life--- until she sees what he has become. Then, she has a sort of breakdown. She insists that this man-sized creature is her son, yet the sight of him comes to terrify her. However, her maternal instinct DOES kick in when it appears that her husband might actually KILL Gregor.
What Gregor's metamorphosis does to his relationship with his teenaged sister Grete is probably the most heart-breaking of all. Having postponed indefinitely, or given up completely, most of his hopes of normal life, including love and marriage, Gregor lavishes his most extravagant ambitions on his sister, who plays the violin. While he represses his resentment at supporting his parents under the guise of filial duty, he is willing to give up extras to send his sister to music school, though he is no music lover, and indeed, Grete's talents may only be average. The siblings confide in each other and commiserate about their parents. Gregor's insect heart falters at the thought of this formerly pampered innocent forced to wait on customers all day in a store.
Due to their former closeness, and because she is young, resilient, and still open to new experiences, Grete at first undertakes the care and feeding of her brother with devotion. However, as all hope of his somehow recovering and returning to human form dwindles, and, in fact, he becomes depressed, weaker and messier, she soon explodes with desperation, urging her parents to get rid of the creature. She no longer believes it is her brother, though, ironically, she draws this conclusion after he has clumsily tried to show his still-extant love and appreciation during her impromptu violin recital for the family's obnoxious lodgers, the best she has ever played. (It was Gregor's misfortune to turn into a giant beetle or roach, rather than a DOG, whose slobbery delight might have been more acceptable.)
The beleagured parents give in to their suddenly-assertive daughter (who suddenly veers from resembling her aquiescent mother in character, to her domineering father), and they lock the weakened Gregor in his room until whatever happens, happens. It is after this ultimate rejection and betrayal that he almost WILLS himself to die, though he does forgive his family their trespasses.
The deterioration of the Samsa family's relationship with Gregor began long before
his transformation. His father hypocritically bullied him even after his own business
failure; his mother, though kind, seemed weak and clueless; and his sister, though
gentle and affectionate, was spoiled and rather self-centered. Gregor, though basically
a good, dutiful son and brother, had HIS major flaw, too; enhausted and put out as
he often was by the demands of a traveling salesman's life, he had come to believe
that he was the ONLY possible savior of his family. They may not have treated him
very well, but they NEEDED him.
He had even selected their apartment, which the others found too large and inconveniently located. He stoked his own martyr complex, convinced that he could only work for the man who had "ruined" his father, denying himself even the simple pleasures enjoyed by other traveling salesmen, in the probably fallacious belief that he would somehow be punished by his boss, and, more probably, by his father. Gregor's fatal flaw was hubris, but of a special kind--- excessive pride in his own suffering and futile sacrifice.
However, this doesn't absolve his family; for years, nobody paid attention to Gregor's frustrations, and he gave up any idea of complaining; after becoming an insect, nobody could understand him anyway. His mother fretted that he never went out, and read all night; after the metamorphosis, he was confined to his room and was no longer able to read. He often went the extra mile to make a living for his family; after he changed, his family eventually begrudged him food, freedom, his furniture, and even basic hygiene. Even their jobs reflected what he no longer could do: His father becomes a bank messenger, a position of trust that involved handling some money; his mother sews scraps of fabric to make underwear, and his sister works behind a sales counter. They also learned (or in the father's case, re-learned), how tiring making a living can be, while their former breadwinner languished miserably in his room at home, feeling GUILTY at first, because he could no longer join the daily grind.
Surprisingly, the Samsas didn't try to exploit, and profit from, Gregor's condition, by selling him to a zoo, circus OR scientists, but after brief consideration of calling a doctor, they didn't bother to have him examined by SOME kind of expert, even a veterenarian. (This circumstance, and the lack of any public alarm raised by Gregor's co-worker, the boarders, or the servants. adds to the theory that this was an entirely imagined event on Gregor's part, perhaps caused by delirium of a fatal illness like Kafka's own consumption, which rendered HIM wasted and thin, with a suspiciously insect-shaped head.) The Samsas were ashamed of Gregor, when it was THEMSELVES who should have been ashamed. Ironically, only the crude charwoman seemed to believe he had intelligence, though, after his death, she and the family had his body disposed of with far less dignity than most pets.
Living as a human, Gregor gave his all for his family; and they remained weak.
While living as an insect, he was humbled, and it seemed as though his life force
was drained as his family became able to fend for themselves without him. So much
seemed to have gone out of him, into them, that after his death, Grete observed how
thin and dried-out he had become. However, the family still didn't comprehend this
ultimate, almost Christ-like sacrifice. (A distinctive theme, given that Kafka was
Jewish, but obviously well-informed about the religion of his neighbors and friends.)
Though they sniffled and sobbed for a while, they didn't seem to have remembered, or cared enough, about the human Gregor that had been lost months ago, nor wondered why, in his last moments, he had not transformed back into a man. It was all about THEM and their need for a break, and new plans for living. To do them some justice, it must have felt like they were suddenly freed from caretaking for a terminal patient (as time went on it WAS clear Gregor was doomed), but they weren't doing a great job of that to begin with, and did NOT feel guilty about it. Worse, though Grete now appears as vivid as a newly-emerged butterfly, her parents are already conspiring to clip her wings, they way they had their ultra-dutiful son's, perhaps with an economically "good" if loveless marriage (like their own).
The Metamorphosis, then, is more than the story of one man's powerlessness, and alienation due to the indifferent, impersonally cruel forces of modern life, but also even within the bosom of one's own family, which is supposed to be the antidote to these negative conditions. It isn't just about how one's body can be corrupted, and the spirit nearly crushed by forces in society, but by the self-defeating impulses that exist within an individual, and, just perhaps, by a higher power that is less and less acknowledged and thus, may resort to extreme methods to get one's attention.