Franz Kafka once stated that a book should be used as "an axe to break up the frozen sea within us," and his short story, "The Metamorphosis" does not stray from doing so. In "The Metamorphosis" Kafka tells the tragic and absurd tale of a working-class man who is transformed into a bug and the overall isolation and rejection he receives from his family and the rest of humanity. .
Kafka uses the symbolism of the man's metamorphosis to perpetuate the theme of isolation among people and their unending enslavement to the work world by forces of materialism. His criticism of the modern capitalist society and the human preoccupation with financial security is quite apparent and "The Metamorphosis" acts as an "axe" to get the reader to see his view. Using his tragic protagonist he creates a certain effect in which the reader has a clearer view of society's sad plight and the isolation that results. This isolation faced by the protagonist serves as the main conflict of the story. .
The story is set in the early 1900's, in a small working-class neighborhood. Almost the entire narrative takes place in the Samsa home. This is a key element to the story's theme. This apartment, mainly the room in which the bug-man is kept, is used to ostracize him from the outside world. The room is a tool to further Kafka's theme of isolation.
Kafka instantly sets a fantastically absurd and bizarre mood within the first few lines of the story: "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin (Kafka 433)." This leaves the reader instantly disturbed. Futhermore, neither the narrator, nor Gregor, seems too concerned with the man-to-bug transformation. The narrator sticks to just telling the facts. This in turn causes even more anxiety within the reader. It is here the reader is introduced to the protagonist and former human, Gregor Samsa.