The Metamorphosis

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Grete's violin Symbol Analysis

Grete's violin Symbol Icon
Grete's violin, like the print of the lady with the muff, is one of the story's few objects of beauty. Gregor's deepest desire before his transformation was to pay for Grete to study violin at the Conservatorium. The violin symbolizes their loving bond and shows Gregor's altruistic, sympathetic character. Yet the violin also leads to Gregor's biggest mistake, the night before his death. While Grete plays for the lodgers, Gregor gets so excited and hopeful that he crawls too close. The others misread his gesture as threatening, and his intentions completely fail—though he wanted to enjoy the music and support his sister, he ends up destroying both the evening and the family's income from the lodgers. The violin is closely linked to the themes of family and of intentions vs. outcomes, and it represents both the best parts of Gregor's character, namely his love and support of Grete and his desire to take part in a beautiful experience, and the sad truth that he can never communicate such things again. Trapped in a cockroach body, unable to share the moment of beauty, his life is not worth living.

Grete's violin Quotes in The Metamorphosis

The The Metamorphosis quotes below all refer to the symbol of Grete's violin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Schocken Books edition of The Metamorphosis published in 1995.
Section 3 Quotes

He felt hardly any surprise at his growing lack of consideration for the others; there had been a time when he prided himself on being considerate.

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa
Related Symbols: Grete's violin
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

Gregor has heard Grete playing the violin and has crept into the room while the family and their lodgers are gathered for her recital. He hasn't taken the time to clean himself, and he knows that he will only be more repulsive to the family. Here, though, he finds himself affected by a different set of pressures. Gregor seems to have lost the sense of responsibility and care for his family that had long continued to be present even in his new state. It was that sense of responsibility that caused him those feelings of "shame and grief," for instance, and made him frustrated that he can no longer fulfill the role that was always his in the family. But now, this loss of a sense of responsibility seems to suggest that Gregor is allowing his body to dictate what he does. 


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Was he an animal, that music had such an effect on him?

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa
Related Symbols: Grete's violin
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

Moments earlier, Gregor scuttled into the room where his sister was playing violin as if drawn there without his will. In an earlier passage this movement is described as a triumph of Gregor's bodily instincts over the emotional factors of responsibility and thoughtfulness that defined his character as a human. Now, however, we see the attraction of the concert to him in a different light. What draws him to the room is, of course, Grete's music: he is unable to stop himself because he is so enraptured by her playing.

Such an overwhelming feeling as a result of a musical or artistic experience is familiar to many people: indeed, one might call it a particularly human trait. As a result, Gregor begins to wonder whether or not "he" is truly an insect – a question that implies a more fundamental question, whether or not he is the same person that he once was, and what it means for the "he" that is Gregor's consciousness to survive through different physical realities. While the book will never answer this question, here it particularly complicates the possibility of making a strong contrast between thinking human and instinctual animal.

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Grete's violin Symbol Timeline in The Metamorphosis

The timeline below shows where the symbol Grete's violin appears in The Metamorphosis. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 2
Family Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Sympathy, Dependence, Responsibility Theme Icon
...used to it. Gregor also recalls how he'd hoped to support Grete's future studies in violin at the Conservatorium. Gregor's father decides that he must go back to work, as old... (full context)
Section 3
Family Theme Icon
...first time since the transformation as far as Gregor knows, Grete begins to play the violin. The lodgers ask her to come play for them in the living room. Gregor's mother... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Intentions vs. Outcomes Theme Icon
...father. At first, the lodgers are amused, but then they become concerned. Grete gives the violin to her mother and runs to make the lodgers' beds. Gregor's father tries to push... (full context)
Money Theme Icon
Intentions vs. Outcomes Theme Icon
...lodgers follow suit. Gregor's father and mother are extremely upset, and Gregor's mother drops the violin. Gregor stays still on the floor. (full context)