chapter  6
The Sick Family in the Early Middle Ages
The evidence of Gregory of Tours
ByPeregrine Horden
Pages 11

‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic verminous insect . . .’ The opening of Franz Kafka’s story ‘Metamorphosis’. However we interpret that text, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the transformation which Gregor undergoes is at least partly a symptom or an expression of the tensions, the suppressed hostilities, within the Samsa family. And, at the end of the story, when Gregor has died, it also seems that some kind of healing has been wrought for others. The whole family had been sick, lifeless, dependent on Gregor’s unremitting toil – an aspect well brought out in Steven Berkoff’s stylized dramatization (Berkoff 1988). Now the family is better: ‘Then they all three [parents and sister] left the apartment together, which was more than they had done for months, and went by tram into the open countryside outside the town . . . Leaning back comfortably in their seats they canvassed their prospects for the future, and it appeared on close inspection that these were not at all bad . . .’ (Kafka 1961: 9, 62). Although only one member of a family may exhibit symptoms, the whole family is sick and needs treatment.