It won’t be too difficult for The Metamorphosis to capture students’ interest; after all, the main character of the novella, Gregor, casually wakes up one morning transformed into a bug. Why? The reader never finds out, and it is exactly this vagueness and intrigue that makes Franz Kafka’s story so perfect to dissect in a classroom.

Most critics and educational professionals alike will agree that The Metamorphosis is an allegory, so instructing students on symbolism, foreshadowing, irony, and humor is a must. Exactly what the story represents, however, is wide open for interpretation, so be sure to explore all possibilities through class discussion. Three of the numerous theories are: 1) The novella is autobiographical and expresses the isolation Kafka felt as a both German in Czech Prague and Jewish during a particularly anti-Semitic time. He also had a difficult relationship with his father, which could have contributed to Mr. Samsa’s characterization; 2) Gregor’s experiences mirror that of the Jewish diasphora in general; 3) The events of the novel are meant to evoke questions about human decency (what qualifies as ‘human’? what qualifies as ‘decent’?).

Your students will likely want to understand why and how Gregor turns into a bug, but steer their attention toward the more answerable questions: How does Gregor’s family change, and what does their transformation represent? What does Gregor’s eerily calm reaction to his metamorphosis suggest about existentialism (a philosophy that became popular in the 19th century and was quite influential on Kafka’s writing)?

Below, you’ll find Prestwick House’s 9 Simple Goals for How to Teach The Metamorphosis.

1. Summarize The Metamorphosis

One seemingly typical morning, traveling salesman Gregor Samsa oversleeps and is late for work, alarming his family. Is he ill? Hurt? No—he has inexplicably transformed into a grotesque, human-sized insect. The novella traces Gregor’s internal thoughts as grows used to his new form; it also explores how this metamorphosis affects his parents and sister.

Content Warning: The Metamorphosis contains an incident of death.

2. Identify Objectives for Teaching The Metamorphosis :

  • Trace the change experienced by Gregor’s family members.
  • Draw conclusions regarding Kafka’s view of both totalitarianism and capitalism.
  • Support or refute the opinion that The Metamorphosis is a “timeless” story.
  • Note the significance of recurring pairs of three in the novella.
  • Understand features of an existential viewpoint.

3. Pinpoint Key Facts and Literary Elements

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1915
  • Length: 80 pages
  • Lexile® Measure: 1340
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11-12

Literary Elements

  • Allegory
  • Existentialism
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Persona
  • Symbolism
  • Theme
  • Verisimilitude

4. Understand Themes and Motifs

  • Isolation – The novella explores the experience of “the other” through insect-Gregor’s isolation from his family and the world at large.
  • Transformation – Putting aside the obvious bug transformation, consider that Gregor’s family members must adapt to life without Gregor’s earnings, and their roles and mindsets shift drastically.
  • Existentialism – Kafka employs the idea that humans are directly responsible for their own development through conscious acts.

5. Explore Related Works

Theme of Isolation

Theme of Transformation

Theme of Existentialism

6. Employ Films and Other External Resources

7. Consider What Your Students Will Love

  • The plot is enjoyably absurd,
  • Kafka packs a great deal of analyzable material into a short novella.

8. Anticipate What Your Students May Struggle With

  • The lack of explanation for Gregor’s transformation.
  • Large blocks of text without dialogue breaks,

9. Order The Metamorphosis Resources from Prestwick House:

Resource Format
The Metamorphosis Paperback Student Edition
The Metamorphosis Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable
The Metamorphosis Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Metamorphosis AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Metamorphosis Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Metamorphosis Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Metamorphosis Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set