People show their true selves not in ordinary, but extraordinary circumstances. We spend our lives studying the way we should think and the way we should act based on the context of our daily routines, and it is only when that routine is shattered that we can take a good look in mirror and tell exactly what kind of people we are. That is the case here. Gregor Samsa, a man whose daily routine consists of going to work and providing for his family, finds that he is suddenly unable to do so—and this doesn’t happen in an ordinary way. He isn’t fired, he doesn’t decide to quit, he isn’t caught in road rage, he doesn’t get food poisoning; of all things, he turns into a bug. He wakes up from a nightmare into a nightmare, and one so surreal that it takes a while for him to recognize his new reality. His daily routine his shattered, and with it, his hope for the future. He can no longer pay off his family’s debt, no longer court that woman he had a crush on, and most importantly to him, no longer be able to enroll his sister into music school. Now, he becomes utterly dependent on his family instead of the other way around. He spends his days amusing himself by crawling around his room—which begins to lose its furniture—and eats rotten food that he would before never have touched. Has he adapted? Has his extraordinary circumstance transformed into the ordinary? The story does not last long enough for us to know, as in the end, Gregor simply…dies. We are cut off from the climax that we wanted—regardless of what that climax might entail—and are instead given an anticlimax. The question remains, then: When Gregor Samsa looks into the mirror, what does he see?
Although Gregor’s story ends in an anticlimax, his family’s certainly doesn’t. We know exactly what the true form of his family is—it is, in every way, shape, and form, that of ordinary people. His family may not consist of saints, but neither do they consist of monsters. They were faced with the shocking nightmare of their son/brother and sole breadwinner turning into a cockroach, but instead of killing it outright, they kept it alive with the belief that it was still Gregor (was it?). They fed it and took care of it with great effort and despite the revulsion they felt at seeing it, and the sister in particular, recalling her love for her brother, worked the hardest of them all. They, too, adapted to their circumstance, in one way but not in another. They got their savings together, fired some servants to save money, and began taking jobs to make ends meet. Their daily lives of idleness transformed into daily lives of work, and in this relatively ironic fashion, they themselves transformed from human parasites into productive citizens. One part of their circumstances remained extraordinary, however; namely, that of the bug. They kept the bug, but they never got used to it—sister, mother, and father all remained repulsed, and it was only in the tolerance of their “good will” that they allowed it to remain. Just as time washes away pain, however, it washes away affection. The more they worked, the more their memory of Gregor faded, and eventually, they believed that they had “done enough”. They had put up with this extraordinary circumstance for long enough, and it was time to return to their daily lives. And they did. The bug died, the cleaning woman disposed of it, and they all simultaneously took a day off from work (a return to the old days of idleness) in order to discuss the future. They found out that their daily lives were actually going good. All of their jobs were steady, and the daughter was approaching the age for marriage—they were just thinking about ordinary things like ordinary people, and in their ordinary minds, Gregor was nothing more than a distant memory.