Jason Yackee
Kafka & The Modern World
"Metamorphosis" writing assignment

Death of a Salesman:
Coping With Loss in a Middle Class Family

A special living-section report by Jason Yackee, staff reporter to the Prague Post-Gazette

This reporter is a neighbor of the family described below. He recorded the family's thoughts and comments after a visit to offer his condolences to the family the day following their son's death.

Last week Gregor Samsa, of Prague, died at home of complications arising from an extended illness as well as an adverse reaction to an apple. Mr. Samsa, in his twenties, is survived by his mother, ___ Samsa, father, ____ Samsa, and younger sister, Greta.

Mr. Samsa, a travelling salesman employed by a local textile company, was known to his family and colleagues as an industrious, dedicated, faithful employee and friend. Says his boss, "That Gregor, up until his - uh - well, leave of absence, Gregor never missed a day of work. Pay no attention to the rumors you hear around here. That boy was honest, always ready to sacrifice his own pleasure and relaxation for his duties to the company and his family."

Mr. Samsa's mother agrees: "Yes Gregor, he was going places, worked right up the corporate ladder, all the way to traveling salesman! Just think, My Gregor! Until, well, you know, he just hadn't been himself for the last few months. Maybe the weather got him down. But I told him he needed to get out more, meet a nice girl, I told him so, but, well, what can a mother do?"

The pain of his tragic loss still shows on Herr Samsa's craggy face; his grief can be heard in his halting words: "You see, I feel a little guilty - you know, that apple, I never thought - but who would have thought? I mean, my boy was always a little thin-skinned, but - still, hard worker, my boy was, I taught him, just like me he was, until - it was that laziness I will never understand, I mean how he was towards the end, that - I never taught him to shirk his responsibilities, no sir, not giving his boss the proper notice that was due, and here I am near 70 years old, working myself to the bone - well, excuse me my boy, but I need to step outside and, well, enjoy the weather, it's been such a long winter, don't you agree?"

As the family prepares for a walk in the park, Gregor's sister Greta, a budding musician, adds, "It's like he's been dead for months. I tried hard to understand him, mumbling like that, staying closed up in that room, but with the way he was acting, I'm sort of glad he did. I mean, he would just snap so ferociously, for no reason, and he was so finicky with his food, like never before! And I tried to clean that room, but, I don't know, I guess it's all for the better, you know? I mean, I never got the chance to tell Gregor, but I'm being courted by a wonderful gentleman, actually an old boarder of ours, who actually wants to send me to conservatory! Imagine, I never thought! And Mother and Father have just agreed to move out of this awfully dreary apartment Gregor made us rent."

When asked how they would like their late son to be remembered, the elder Mr. Samsa said, "Gregor, the old Gregor, the son I knew and loved, he would want us to remember his committment to family."

And so, the Samsa family copes, together, with the death of their beloved son and brother, Gregor, offering us all a valuable lesson in the importance of family in dealing with a painful loss.

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last updated: 03/24/96