Though Gregor's family first deals with his metamorphosis with concern and sympathy, by the story's end they're actually happier after his death. The story demonstrates the shifting roles of dependence and sympathy: at first, the dependent Gregor gains the sympathy of his family, who attempt to be responsible for him; later, they grow weary, even angered, by their responsibilities towards him. The family's loss of sympathy for Gregor stems from the trouble he's caused them financially and the ways he's embarrassed them in front of guests, but the biggest block to their sympathy is his loss of his human shape and behavior. Grete is the character with the most sympathy for Gregor, but even she reaches her limit after the disastrous violin concert. She tells her mother and father, "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…" She justifies this position by choosing not to believe that the cockroach is her brother anymore, and characterizes him as selfish and rude. The readers, on the other hand, are aligned with Gregor, since we see the story from his head. As he runs back and forth in dismay, we feel his pain, even as we wish that he could reassure his family by acting a little more human, or by being more responsible and independent.
Still, Grete's assumption may be true—Gregor in this new shape might not be her brother anymore. By the end of the story, he's not so much a human trapped in an insect's body, as a very thoughtful insect, which to all outward appearances acts like an insect. But even though he's not really human anymore, does he deserve the same amount of sympathy as a human? The story suggests that he does, but it also demonstrates how that's impossible.
Sympathy, Dependence, Responsibility ThemeTracker
Sympathy, Dependence, Responsibility Quotes in The Metamorphosis
"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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.