The Metamorphosis

– Grete’s Ulterior Motives Essay, Research Paper

In The Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa is forced to deal with his transformation from a human being into an insect. After his transformation Gregor is no longer able to do everyday ordinary things. He now has to depend on someone to do these things for him. His younger sister, Grete, makes herself responsible for Gregor. She takes it upon herself to make sure that Gregor is fed and his room is cleaned. This leads to the question; why does she place such a huge responsibility on herself? An optimist like Gregor who only sees the good side of people would say it is because she is a loving and caring person. That her brother’s current condition makes her feel sorry for him and she wants to help him in any way possible. However a pessimist would see an ulterior motive to his sisters’ actions. Since the narrator of the story is Gregor the reader is introduced to Grete through the optimist’s point of view. Gregor portrays Grete as a nurturing and caring person whose actions are solely based on what is best for Gregor. However, what if the narrator was not Gregor but a neutral person who had no prior relationship to Grete? Would Grete’s motives for helping Gregor appear to be purely unselfish? There are many points in the story that the reader is left with the feeling that Grete might have ulterior motives. If the narrator were an impartial character Grete’s intentions would not appear to be so pure.

Grete’s motives from the beginning of the story are questionable. Why does she make herself responsible for Gregor? Gregor believes that she “had perhaps taken on so difficult a task merely out of childish thoughtlessness” (100). However there is another

reason for her helpfulness. Gregor has always been the child that supported the family

financially. He was the son, the sole breadwinner of the family. Before Gregor’s transformation Grete really had no place in the family. Now since Gregor was unable to help the family Grete became important, needed and most of all appreciated. “He often heard them expressing their appreciation of his sister’s activities, whereas formerly they had frequently scolded her for being a somewhat useless daughter”(99). Now Grete’s parents need her for something. Grete by making herself responsible for Gregor gains a certain power over her parents. This however in not presented to the reader clearly because Gregor is unable to grasp the fact that his sister might have ulterior motives.

Another instance that Grete’s motives are a bit unclear is when she decides to move all of his furniture out of his room.

The determination was not of course, merely the outcome of childish recalcitrance and of the self confidence she had recently developed so unexpectedly and at such high costs; she had also perceived that Gregor needed a lot of space to crawl about in, (103).

Gregor believes that Grete is moving the furniture so he can be more comfortable. Once again, Gregor leads the reader to believe that Grete’s actions are driven by what is best for him. This is not necessarily true. The reader has to keep in mind that this is the same person who at the end decides to get rid of Gregor. Why would she care about his crawling space when at the end she doesn’t even care where he is buried? Grete’s motive for moving the furniture is not due to childish impulsiveness and enthusiasm as Gregor assumes. Grete is testing the extent of the power she has gained over Gregor. Grete’s mother is opposed to moving the furniture because it would look like they are giving up hope. However since Grete has become the “expert” on Gregor she is able to persuade her mom into moving the furniture. Grete has gained the power to even go against her

mother’s wishes when it comes to matters that deal with Gregor. Grete manages to keep this power by secluding Gregor from the rest of the family. Grete constantly dissuades Gregor’s mother from visiting him. An example of this is the time when Gregor’s mother cleans his room.

Hardly had the sister noticed the changed aspect of his room that evening than she rushed in high dudgeon into the living room and despite the imploringly raised hands of her mother, burst into a storm of weeping, (115).

Gregor interprets and states that his sister’s reaction is due to jealousy. Grete’s reaction is not due to jealousy. If Grete were as caring as Gregor makes her seem wouldn’t she be happy that someone is taking care of Gregor? Instead Grete is upset and angry that her mother cleaned the room. Grete knows that if Gregor’s mom begins cleaning his room and visiting him then Grete would no longer be the “expert” on Gregor. Grete would then lose the power that she has gained through Gregor’s transformation.

The scene when Gregor’s mother faints is another moment that the reader has to question Grete’s motives. As soon as Gregor’s mother faints he rushes out to help his sister. However he forgets that in his present condition he is practically useless. When Gregor’s father arrives he asks to be informed of what has happened. Grete’s reply is: “Mother has been fainting, but she is better now. Gregor’s broken loose” (107). This brief statement is referring to Gregor as if he is some animal who escaped from his cage and due to him her mother fainted. At this point Gregor realizes that his father had interpreted “Grete’s all too brief statement and was assuming that Gregor had been guilty of some violent act” (107). However Gregor does not question why Grete made her answer so brief. It seems like Grete wants her father to think that Gregor has done

something terribly wrong. When Gregor’s dad starts to scream and throw apples at Gregor, Grete makes no attempt to try to explain what really occurred. She allows her father to hurt Gregor for no reason at all. These are not the actions of the loving and caring sister that Gregor portrays throughout the novel.

Gregor throughout the book constantly misreads his sister’s actions and misinterprets her motives. Since the story is told through Gregor’s point of view we perceive Grete through most of the novel as someone who is unselfish and helpful. However at the end we find ourselves wondering if Grete’s intentions are really as pure as Gregor thinks. Did Grete plan from the beginning to get rid of Gregor? The truth is once Gregor was out of the picture Grete became the needed and helpful child. Grete had a lot to gain and nothing to lose by getting rid of Gregor. Gregor is not impartial when it comes to his sister and he is unable to perceive her bad intentions because he thinks so highly of her. Therefore it can be said that if the narrator of the story was a detached character Grete would not appear to be so harmless and innocent.


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