Abraham Maslow??™s hierarchy of needs is a well-known humanist theory. The concept involves five common human needs that must be satisfied in order to achieve a sense of fulfillment. Maslow??™s theory is organized into a series of five concepts which are represented as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid consists of human physiological needs, such as air and food, without which life cannot be sustained. As the pyramid develops, as does a life, the needs become more complex and self based, leading to the pinnacle of humanity, self actualization. Many theorists have attempted to follow these principles, but the basic concepts remain the same. In the novella, The Metamorphosis, Kafka leads the reader to believe that Gregor has reached a place of self-fulfillment and accomplishment; yet as the book develops, Gregor regresses through the hierarchy of his needs to a point where he can no longer hang on to his life.
Gregor??™s life was built around the other people in his life. He provided for his family and worked to pay off his parent??™s debt. According to Maslow, Gregor had achieved a certain level of self actualization, which was torn down when he could no longer be a productive member of society. In the second level of the hierarchy of needs, it is theorized that one must reach a feeling of accomplishment. By working and providing for his family, Gregor felt a sense of success and triumph. However, as he was incapable of working after his change, his parents and his sister were left to provide for themselves. Guilt set in when Gregor realized the financial issues that arose for his family, despite the fact that he had no influence on his change. This guilt made Gregor feel as though his family couldn??™t rely on him, and well as making it seem as though he didn??™t accomplish anything even when he was capable of working. Before his transformation, Gregor had a close relationship with his family, and he spent time with them when he wasn??™t occupied with work. For a while after her brother??™s change, Grete continued to care for Gregor, providing the care that he needed as well as retaining a sense of love and belongingness. Gregor takes another step down the pyramid as his family begins to see Gregor as a burden, and can??™t find the time to care for him. The fourth stage, or concept, of Maslow??™s theory, is maintaining a sense of safety in one??™s life. Gregor??™s job is essential to his safety. Without the everyday routine of getting up and leaving for work, he feels vulnerable. As the reader discovers in the book, as an insect, Gregor often thinks about work, and while at home, he grows fed up of trying to find something to do with his time. The final stage of Maslow??™s hierarchy of needs, are the basic physiological needs, such as warmth, food, water, and rest. When Grete stops caring about Gregor??™s well-being, as well as whether he is properly fed and nurtured, his physiological needs are no longer fulfilled and he can no longer survive.
Maslow offers us a framework upon which to base the life we lead. Gregor follows a deadly path down the pyramidal theory of human existence, contradictory to the accepted route an individual must take in order to live a happy and fulfilled life. He has lost control over his daily subsistence and cannot accomplish the steps of his life that meant anything to him in his previous years. We can clearly follow the direction of Gregor??™s downfall though the pages, to a place where even basic human needs and desires can no longer be met. Maslow gives us a visitor??™s guide to this sad story, a way in which the reader can watch the gradual decline in Gregor??™s human condition to the point where he passes to the unknown. As humans we need not only food, water and air to keep us alive, but also relationships, love and a feeling of being needed and wanted. Without these, we are nothing but empty shells and will cease to exist; we will fade from existence, just as Gregor did in The Metamorphosis.
Cherry, Kendra. “Hierarchy of Needs – Maslows Hierarchy of Needs.” Psychology – Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2010.