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Excessive Materialism and Inferiority of Society in Franz Kafka's ‘The Metamorphosis’

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Have you ever felt out of place in your workplace or community? Society as a whole has several negative aspects with the main being that people are very hollow. One prominent writer such as Franz Kafka laid out some of these critiques in his novel. In ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Kafka society is shown to be extremely materialist as a whole and value external appearances in excessive amounts.

In the novella ‘The Metamorphosis’, society and more specifically Gregor, are shown to be very materialist. For starters, Gregor is only motivated to work because of the fact that he is the only source of income for his family. This is shown by the quotation “If I didn't have my parents to think about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel. ...once I've got the money together to pay off my parents' debt to him - another five or six years I suppose - that's definitely what I'll do” (Kafka 6). In this quote we are told by Gregor himself says that the only reason he works is to pay his parent’s debt off and earn money for them to live from. Another aspect of materialism would be the importance given to money. Money is either mentioned or is a recurrent thought throughout the whole novella. Income has such an impact on people that Gregor, who has been turned into vermin and is no longer really human, thinks about his family’s financial issues. This shows how indispensable money is as even cockroach-like being understands its importance and impact shown by the quote “Whenever they began to talk of the need to earn money, Gregor would always first let go of the door and then throw himself onto the cool, leather sofa next to it, as he became quite hot with shame and regret” (Kafka 40). In this quote, we are shown that as Gregor is no longer really human (at least in appearance), he can’t provide any more money for his family despite knowing it’s a necessity (which is what makes him feel shame and regret).

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We are also shown in this novella that society puts excessive amounts of importance in regards to the physical appearance of people. This ends up causing the alienation of certain people, who are different in terms of what society deems normal, to be set in motion. A quote that demonstrates this is “...he must show patience and the greatest consideration so that his family could bear the unpleasantness that he, in his present condition, was forced to impose on them” (Kafka 32). In this quote, Gregor is depicted as a burden and unpleasant now that he is no longer deemed human. Gregor is now becoming even more alienated to society than he already was as he is imprisoned in his room by his own family (in spite of later being let around the house out of pure pity for embedding an apple in his back). The fact that he has to show ‘consideration’ for his transformation (despite not having any power over it) shows just how shallow society and the people that constitute it are.

In conclusion, society values physical appearances and are way too materialistic as shown by Kafka in his work. Society does try indeed to integrate and make everyone feel like they are a part of something yet we, as individual greedy humans, tend to deviate from these idealized versions of society. The hollowness of people drove the author to really integrate and engrain this side of human nature in his novel in order to show how flawed society is.

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Excessive Materialism and Inferiority of Society in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Excessive Materialism and Inferiority of Society in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Excessive Materialism and Inferiority of Society in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Excessive Materialism and Inferiority of Society in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from:
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