1. It seems that the relationship between Gregor and his family is quite poor. The reader is told that prior to Gregor’s metamorphosis, Gregor’s father experienced a great monetary loss when his business collapsed. Gregor, unasked, gives up a more prestigious job to become a traveling salesman in order to provide for his family. The rest of the family memebers, meanwhile, make absolutely no effort to contribute to the income, or to get themselves out of debt. We find out that, although some money from the father’s business did survive, the father has kept this fact hidden, allowing Gregor to pay day to day expenses. Gregor has no doubt become bitter, having given up so much for his unappreciative family. Although the reason for the father’s resentment of Gregor is never revealed, he likely blames Gregor for his feeling of emasculation as a father no longer providing for his family.
The father’s distain for Gregor can be seen by how easily he is able to dehumanize Gregor after the metamorphosis. Rather than testing to see whether Gregor is able to understand him, he immediately assumes he is wild and bent on hurting the family. Gregor’s father in the course of the story herds him with a cane and viciously throws apples at him. Of the three family members, the father is the only one who does not wish to see Gregor or attempt to take care of him. In the beginning, on seeing Gregor’s transformed state, the father initially becomes defensive and seems willing, if need be, to become aggressive. He then suddenly bursts into tears. It does not appear, however, that these are tears of sorrow at Gregor’s state, rather he “looked uncertainly round the living room, covered his eyes with his hands and cried’, as if realizing that without Gregor, the life of ease he is accustomed, symbolized by the walls around him, is about to vanish (953).
2. There are four central events of The Metamorphoses, each of which result in a change in the family dynamic. The first event is Gregor’s metamorphosis into a cockroach, the second event is Gregor’s injury at the hands of his father, the third is Gregor’s appearance before the three tenants, and the final event is Gregor’s death.
After the initial shock of finding out that Gregor has become a cockroach, the family begins to process what this will mean for them. They obviously can no longer depend on Gregor for income, and so they begin discussing what life changes they must make. This appears to be the first time that the family has communicated with one another. This event unifies them and strengthens them.
The second event occurs when Gregor causes the mother to faint as she is moving his furniture. He leaves his room until the father drives him back. At this point in the story we see the mother and daughter unified in their endeavor to assist Gregor. More importantly we become aware that the father has taken a job. This is the first step in beginning to provide for the family, rather than depending on Gregor. Although Gregor is wounded at this point in the story, the family steadily becomes more self-sufficient, as each member of the family gets a job.
When Gregor, in his greatly weakened state, is seen by the tenants and drives them away, the family no longer sees him as anything more than a nuisance. They realize that they cannot live with him as the skeleton in their closet. At this point in the story they realize that they no longer need Gregor. They are able to take care of themselves. Where Gregor once was their means of living, he is now a burden.
After Gregor’s death the family is able to breathe easy. The burden which has caused them anxiety is removed. They have become masters of their own livelihood and have learned to look to the future. Rather than seeing their state as a tragedy they are content and foresee only good times ahead.
3. I do not think that Requiem is especially effective as a political protest. The injustices which its pages reveal were not lessened by its writing. It seems to be more of a tribute. It functions well as a memorial to her son and to all others who were detained, tortured, forced to work, and murdered under Stalin’s rule. By causing future generations to remember, Akhmatova may have been attempting to ensure that that sort of injustice would never occur again. In that sense, perhaps her plea was effective; she cannot change the past, but perhaps she is able to influence political decisions of the future.
- 4. In the text I read about Rainer Maria Rilke’s fascination with ancient art. He once wrote a letter to a friend detailing his ecstasy at revelations experienced while viewing artwork, “one day one of them reveals itself to you, and shines like a first star’ (905). After experiencing such an event, Rilke seems to never be quite the same. His understanding of art causes a shift within himself. I believe this is what he means in his command “You must change your life’ (908). After the stone has revealed itself “there is no place that does not see you’ (908). There is no place that one can escape from this new knowledge. He is not content living as before, but must change himself in light of the new reality revealed by the beauty of the stone.