When Gregor first wakes up as a cockroach, he's more concerned about how his transformation will affect his ability to carry out his duties than the actual physical fact of having turned into a repulsive insect. At first, it seems as though Kafka is making a funny, absurdist allegory about the disconnect between the way we perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us. This is true on some level, but the mind vs. body theme in the story is deeper and more complex. Crucially, the difference between Gregor's human mind and animal body begins to fade as Gregor spends more time as a cockroach. Eventually, such as when he scuttles around frantically when his father frightens him, his thought processes seem human, but his conclusions are decisively insect-like. He struggles when his sister removes his furniture, which linked him to his humanity, but ultimately prefers the comfort of a bare room.
Gregor's mind follows his body in its descent into insect-hood—his physical shape determines his behaviors and preferences. The Metamorphosis, as a whole, makes a case not just that the body and mind are linked, but also that the body is the more powerful of the two. In Kafka's view, human reasoning is feeble and easily overcome by bodily realities.
Mind vs. Body ThemeTracker
Mind vs. Body Quotes in The Metamorphosis
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
"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.
Nothing should be taken out of his room; everything must stay as it was; he could not dispense with the good influence of the furniture on his state of mind; and even if the furniture did hamper him in his senseless crawling round and round, that was no drawback but a great advantage.
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.
Instead of being allowed to disturb him so senselessly whenever the whim took her, she should rather have been ordered to clean out his room daily, that charwoman!
"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!"
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.