The Metamorphosis

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Themes and Colors
Mind vs. Body Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Intentions vs. Outcomes Theme Icon
Sympathy, Dependence, Responsibility Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Metamorphosis, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Money Theme Icon

Money (more accurately, the lack of it) hangs over the story, forming the major pressure on the family. Gregor, once transformed, can no longer be his family's income source, which makes his transformation more difficult for his family to bear. He also blocks his family from making income from taking on boarders when he creeps up on the boarders during Grete's concert. Part of the story's humor comes from the fact that the lowest-class character, the charwoman, is the most at ease with the cockroach. In contrast with the boarders, the poor charwoman is equipped to deal with absurdity and grubbiness, and treats Gregor with humor and interest, if not real kindness.

Even as he becomes more and more cockroach-like, Gregor spends a huge amount of time worrying about his family's financial situation, demonstrating how fundamental money is. Even an insect can understand that abundance is better than scarcity. He does his best to eavesdrop on his family's conversations so that he can understand their finances, and his inability to do anything for them, more than his physical situation or the inconvenience he's caused his sister, contributes to his "shame and grief."

Money ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Money appears in each section of The Metamorphosis. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Money Quotes in The Metamorphosis

Below you will find the important quotes in The Metamorphosis related to the theme of Money.
Section 1 Quotes

The chief clerk must be detained, soothed, persuaded and finally won over; the whole future of Gregor and his family depended on it!

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa, Chief Clerk
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Gregor has finally gotten the door to his room unlocked, but he seems curiously to underestimate the distress and shock that are affecting both his family and the clerk at the moment. Instead, he congratulates himself on knowing exactly what must be done in his situation: he must calm down the clerk enough that he won't go back to the office in hysterics and ruin Gregor's job prospects. Such logic might seem flawless to Gregor, although to us it smacks of absurdity as well – how has Gregor not realized that his transformation has quite seriously jeopardized his job already? And that he no longer can be understood in order to explain himself?

Still, Gregor's insistence on soothing the clerk reflects his continued sense of obligation to his family, as he knows he is the sole source of income in the family and must make sure that they will be financially stable. It is the disconnect between Gregor's serious, responsible intentions and the disastrous effects his new body creates that will come to characterize much of the rest of the book.


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Section 2 Quotes

"What a quiet life our family has been leading," said Gregor to himself, and as he sat there motionless staring into the darkness he felt great pride in the fact that he had been able to provide such a life for his parents and sister in such a fine flat. But what if all the quiet, the comfort, the contentment were now to end in horror?

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa (speaker), Grete Samsa, Father, Mother
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Gregor, listening from his room, has realized that his father is not reading to Grete as usual, and his thoughts turn to the great disruption that his transformation has surely made in his family's daily life – perhaps the first time that he fully realizes how significant a change has taken place. Still, he continues to focus on the pride and self-confidence that he feels as an independent young man whose family burdens rest on his shoulders. They have long depended on him to lead the family, financially and otherwise, and he has happily taken on this duty, enabling them to live in peace.

However, now he begins to recognize that such peace and quiet may not last forever. Indeed, he himself might be the cause of his family's greatest destruction, even though that is not at all his intention. Once again, the phrasing of this passage's last line suggests that consequences might unfold without anyone consciously desiring or promoting them – instead, events will simply take place on their own, following the logic of physical reality rather than complex mental desires.

At first whenever the need for earning money was mentioned Gregor let go his hold on the door and threw himself down on the cool leather sofa beside it, he felt so hot with shame and grief.

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Gregor has been listening to his family discuss financial matters, and as he realizes that, although they are thrifty, the only way they can stay afloat is by his father returning to work, he feels ashamed at no longer being able to support them. Gregor's feelings here seem deeply human: "shame and grief" both stem from a sense of responsibility and care towards his family. Gregor recognizes, at the same time, that it was he himself who was able to ease his family's difficulties earlier in his life – even though at the time, his family seemed to take his efforts for granted. Still, Gregor had embraced his role, and now it seems that the identity that he developed for himself as a responsible family man is unraveling, without any legitimate identity to replace it.

Section 3 Quotes

"I'm hungry enough," said Gregor sadly to himself, "but not for that kind of food. How these lodgers are stuffing themselves, and here I am dying of starvation!"

Related Characters: Gregor Samsa (speaker), Gregor Samsa, The lodgers
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Gregor watches how his family carefully looks after the feeding and well-being of the lodgers that they have taken on. Another stage in the family's development has taken place: while initially Gregor provided financially for the family, they were then forced to take care of Gregor. Now, with Gregor transformed, the family has replaced Gregor as a dependent with lodgers who can pay them.

Gregor contrasts his own sorry state with that of the lodgers, even though what they are given to eat no longer appeals to him. Gregor has slipped further into the habits and desires of the body he inhabits. At the same time, however, his mind continues, through memory, to connect his past with his present, as he is able to recognize how much his family's attitude towards him has changed.