“Gregor naturally went and hid himself away beneath the settee, but he had to wait there until noon before his sister returned, and she seemed far more agitated than usual. From this he understood that his appearance was still unbearable to her and would remain so, and that she not doubt had to struggle to force herself not to run away at the sight of even the small part of his body that protruded from beneath the settee.” –Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, 69
In The Metamorphosis, main character Gregor Samsa undergoes a strange overnight transformation. When he wakes up, he realizes that he has been turned into a bug. His ordinary human life goes upside down when his family and other people see what he has been transformed into. Many things change in his life other than his physical form.
The minute his family sees him, they look down upon him. They instantly start treating him different. As the book progresses, the treatment Gregor receives from his family worsens. The passage above describes a scenario where his sister is to the point where she cannot stand to look at him. From the very beginning of the book, Gregor faces many similar situations that are all forms of dehumanization.
Although Gregor is in a bug’s body, he still wants to be treated as a human. Just because he no longer has the body of a human, his family thinks that it is okay to treat him as an insect. They act as if he is not worthy of receiving human treatment.
Power is a big part of dehumanization. A person who loves power and wants to be in control will dehumanize others, because they believe that those people are lower than them in society. In the book, Gregor’s family start to rearrange the furniture in Gregor’s room, making it so that he cannot move around. This instance shows that they do not treat him with equal respect. They do not care how Gregor feels about the situation; therefore they are treating him as if he is just a bug.
At one point, Gregor’s sister says that Gregor is no longer himself. She is saying that he has changed, and is not the person he used to be. In reality, Gregor’s body is different, but he as an individual did not change until he started being treated less than human. Once Gregor was dehumanized, his whole outlook changed for the worse.
Gregor’s treatment from his family causes him to be helpless and has major effects on his mood. He gets upset because he is too helpless to do anything himself. He cannot even eat on his own. He eventually begins starving himself because food no longer sounds satisfying to him. His changes in mood show that dehumanization can have major effects on a person’s life.
At the end of the book, when Gregor dies from starvation, his family is relieved. They only care about the fact that he will no longer be a burden on their lives. They do not really mourn over his death. This is similar to how people react to the death of animals. This is a form of dehumanization, because they treat Gregor as if he is unworthy of having an actual funeral.
Gregor faced many instances of dehumanization, all of which were out of his control. This is how it is in reality for people who are dehumanized by others for things that are out of their own control.