According to the Cambridge Dictionary deception is ‘’the act of hiding the truth, especially to get an advantage’’. Yet according to the Merriam Webster dictionary deception is ‘’the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid’’. Although both definitions of deception have different meanings, the two can be seen in Die Verwandlung.
The theme of deception begins quite early on in Die Verwandlung. The first example is seen when Gregor wakes up to find he has been transformed into a giant, monstrous bug. ‘’»Wie wäre es, wenn ich noch ein wenig weiterschliefe und alle Narrheiten vergäße«, dachte er’’. Gregor does not believe what he is seeing. He tells himself that what has happened is merely some kind of ‘’foolishness’’. He attempts to deceive himself by believing that he has not been transformed into a bug. On the contrary, Gregor believes that his own eyes are deceiving him by showing him his own body as a vermin. Although the reader can see that Gregor is deceiving himself by not believing what has happened to him, Gregor tries to convince himself that what he sees is not reality. Gregor then tries to rationally explain why his eyes are playing this kind of trick on him. ‘’ »Ach Gott«, dachte er, »was für einen anstrengenden Beruf habe ich gewählt! … »Dies frühzeitige Aufstehen«, dachte er, »macht einen ganz blödsinnig. Der Mensch muß seinen Schlaf haben.‘‘ Gregor goes as far to blame his occupation as the reason the illogical transformation happened. He is sure that he is just so tired from the constant early risings and bad food that his mind is deceiving him and in turn, he is deceiving himself. ‘’Er erinnerte sich, … der sich dann beim Aufstehen als reine Einbildung herausstellte, und er war gespannt, wie sich seine heutigen Vorstellungen allmählich auflösen würden. Daß die Veränderung der Stimme nichts anderes war, als der Vorbote einer tüchtigen Verkühlung, einer Berufskrankheit der Reisenden, daran zweifelte er nicht im Geringsten.‘‘ Although Gregor is starting to believe what has happened to him, he is still deceiving himself by believing that he is merely unwell with a cold or a similar sickness. Gregor is trying to accept something that is false, which is of course, deception or more specifically, self-deception.
The theme continues when Gregor tries to convince himself that everything is in order as he tries to open the door to his supervisor with great difficulty. ‘’ Würden sie erschrecken, dann hatte Gregor keine Verantwortung mehr und konnte … um acht Uhr tatsächlich auf dem Bahnhof sein.‘‘ It is clear to the reader that Gregor has legitimately transformed into a cockroach like bug, but Gregor does not yet want to believe it. He continues to accept what is not true. He believes that he will genuinely be able to catch the train and return to work. Using the definition of Cambridge Dictionary, one might ask themselves how Gregor is getting an advantage by convincing himself that he has been transformed into a bug. One could say that the advantage Gregor gets is sanity. If he believes that he is still human he will remain sane, yet if he believes that he has changed overnight into an animal then he will undoubtably feel like he has gone insane. In this instance we see how deception can be depicted as something small, like a white lie rather than what one would usually see deception as, such as betrayal.
Like in the example above, Gregor again deceives himself by telling himself something that is untrue. Gregor genuinely believes that Grete is as kind to leave him eating in peace and cares enough to turn the key, so he is not disturbed. ‘’Und aus Zartgefühl, da sie wußte, daß Gregor vor ihr nicht essen würde, entfernte sich eiligst und drehte sogar den Schlüssel um, damit nur Gregor merken könne, daß er es so behaglich machen dürfe, wie er wolle.‘‘ It is clear to the reader that Grete is disgusted by Gregor and scared to leave him in the room without locking the door, yet Gregor would rather lie to and deceive himself to save his own negative feelings about the transformation.
Gregor’s father deceives the family by hiding the money that he had saved up for his own advantage. ‘’Gregor erfuhr nun zur Genüge – denn der Vater pflegte sich in seinen Erklärungen öfters zu wiederholen … Kapital angesammelt.‘‘ Gregor’s father does not tell the truth about how much money he has been saving, therefor Gregor is still encouraged to work as hard to ensure he brings home enough money for his family.
On a different note one could say that Gregor’s father throwing apples at him and critically wounding him in the back could be referencing to the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived by the serpent to believe that she would become like God if she ate an apple from the forbidden tree. Adam and Eve were then banished from The Garden of Eden much like Gregor being banished from his family. On one hand Gregor’s humanity has also been terminated, yet Adam and Eve were thought to create humanity.
In conclusion, Die Verwandlung contains many different examples of deception, most of them being Gregor’s own self-deception. Yet in the end it is the book itself that deceives its readers. From the beginning the reader is sure that Die Verwandlung will be about the transformation of a human man into a monstrous bug, but that is not what the story is about. We see first-hand the transformation of a well-off family who were living comfortably and had not needed to work themselves, to then struggling financially while holding resentment towards the former bread winner. We also saw the transformation of a teenage Grete into a now matured, independent and beautiful young woman. As well as this the story is about how fragile relationships between family members can be, especially when one is making the majority unhappy. Therefor by including these subjects, the story is not only about the transformation of Gregor, but also about everyone else around him.