After Gregor's transformation, he becomes entirely reliant on his family, in the way that they, before his transformation, relied on his wages. His feelings of duty and responsibility toward his family concern him much more than his bizarre physical predicament. Yet his sister Grete, mother, and father are unable to think of him or treat him in the same way as before. Much of their change in attitude is due to their profound interest in conforming to the norm of the society around them. Grete is the most thoughtful, putting aside her preconceptions to bring him the rotten food he likes. But, though Gregor imagines guarding the family, he's unable to repay her for her help. When he becomes a cockroach, his relationship with his family becomes unequal, about dependence rather than cooperation. His lack of freedom to act, as well as his family's growing frustrations toward him, are factors that play into his listlessness and eventual death.
Gregor's father may bear the major responsibility for his death because of injuring him with the apple, but no one in the family is blameless. At the story's end, Grete, the mother and father feel happier and freer once they no longer have to worry about Gregor. In the world of the story, even close family bonds can't triumph over the unequal relationship (and the disgust) caused by having a cockroach as a son.
Family Quotes in The Metamorphosis
You amaze me, you amaze me. I thought you were a quiet, dependable person, and now all at once you seem bent on making a disgraceful exhibition of yourself.
"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?
…He must lie low for the present and, by exercising patience and the utmost consideration, help the family to bear the inconvenience he was bound to cause them in his present condition.
If he could have spoken to her and thanked her for all she had to do for him, he could have borne her ministrations better; as it was, they oppressed him.
The serious injury done to Gregor, which disabled him for more than a month—the apple went on sticking in his body as a visible reminder, since no one ventured to remove it—seemed to have made even his father recollect that Gregor was a member of the family, despite his present unfortunate and repulsive shape, and ought not to be treated as an enemy, that, on the contrary, family duty required the suppression of disgust and the exercise of patience, nothing but patience.
We must try to get rid of it. We've tried to look after it and to put up with it as far as is humanly possible, and I don't think anyone could reproach us in the slightest.
But how can it be Gregor? If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can't live with such a creature, and he'd have gone away on his own accord.
He thought of his family with tenderness and love.
And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and excellent intentions that at the end of their journey their daughter sprang to her feet first and stretched her young body.