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The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka

Part 2

Part 1

Part 3

Summary

Gregor wakes in the evening. He sees that someone has put a bowl of milk and bread in the room. Though milk had been his favorite drink, he finds he cannot stand the taste now. Then he listens for his family, but the apartment is completely quiet. He recalls the pride he felt at taking care of his family and wonders what will happen to them now. Someone cracks the door open but shuts it immediately, and Gregor eventually sees the light go off in the other room. He crawls under a small sofa and drops into a fitful sleep, vowing that he will do everything he can to make his new condition as small a burden on his family as possible.

In the morning, Grete opens the door but shuts it when she sees Gregor under the sofa. She reopens it and steps into the room. Noticing that Gregor has not eaten, she brings in various kitchen scraps and leaves Gregor to eat alone. He enjoys the moldiest food but has no interest in the fresh vegetables. Grete returns a little while later and sweeps up the scraps while Gregor watches her from beneath the sofa. A pattern thus begins, with Grete feeding and cleaning up after Gregor and reporting to the mother and father how much Gregor has eaten.

Gregor spends much of his time listening to the family through the door. He learns that the money he regularly gave his parents has not all been spent, and he feels proud of his contribution to their wellbeing. To avoid spending this savings, however, the family members will need to find employment. Gregor feels embarrassed when he hears them discuss this topic, as the father has become out of shape and clumsy and the mother has asthma, so neither seems very capable of working. Gregor also reflects on his relationship with his family, recalling how he and his parents had grown apart but that he and Grete had remained close, so much so that he had planned to send her to music school to study the violin.

Gregor slowly adapts to his new life. He begins to enjoy scurrying around his room and climbing on a chair to look out the window. Though Grete continues to look after Gregor, he notices that she cannot stand the sight of him, and he hides behind a sheet draped over the sofa when she enters the room. The parents avoid coming in, though they seem curious about his state. The mother in particular is eager to see him, but Grete and the father urge her not to.

Grete sees that Gregor enjoys climbing up the walls and across the ceiling, so she decides to remove the furniture from the room to give him more space. While the father is out, Grete and the mother start taking out furniture. Gregor hides as usual, but he grows anxious as he hears his mother worry that she and Grete might be doing him a disservice by stripping the room of his possessions. Grete, however, considers herself the expert on Gregor and overrules the mother’s objections. While Grete and the mother talk in the living room, Gregor, panicked at the thought of losing all the remnants of his human life, climbs the wall and covers the picture of the woman in furs to prevent it from being taken away.

The mother spots Gregor on the wall, goes into a panic, and passes out. Grete yells at Gregor as he lets go of the picture and scurries into the living room. Grete rushes out, grabs medicine, and returns to Gregor’s room, shutting the door behind her. The father returns and Grete tells him that Gregor broke out. He misunderstands Grete and thinks Gregor attacked the mother, so he starts chasing Gregor around the room. Gregor notices that his father has become a new man since getting a job as a bank attendant—he stands straighter and looks cleaner and healthier. The father throws fruit at Gregor, and eventually hits him with an apple that becomes lodged in Gregor’s back. The mother bursts from the bedroom and Gregor rushes for the door, hearing his mother beg his father to stop.

Analysis

The question of how much of Gregor’s humanity remains dominates the second section of the story. As the members of the Samsa family adapt to the new situation with Gregor, each one appears to develop a different perception of how much humanity remains in him. At the beginning of the section, for instance, Grete leaves milk for Gregor, apparently assuming that his preference for milk while he was human continues now that he’s a bug. The assumption suggests that Grete believes, at least initially, that some part of Gregor remains the same. But as she recognizes that Gregor’s tastes in food have changed and that he now likes to crawl about the walls of his room, Grete gradually begins to conceive of Gregor as an insect. In response, she suggests taking all Gregor’s possessions out of his room to eliminate obstacles to his crawling and to make the space more suitable to an insect. The mother, on the other hand, protests that Gregor will want his things when he returns to his former self, and earlier in the section she even refers to Gregor as her “unfortunate son,” implying she still believes Gregor to be fundamentally the same despite his appearance. The father gives no indication that he regards Gregor as the same, and attacks him as though he were a wild animal when he escapes his room.

This confusion regarding Gregor’s humanity extends to Gregor himself, and much of the section involves Gregor trying to reconcile his human emotions and history with the physical urges of his new body. Gregor’s lingering humanity is most evident through his thoughts and emotions. He continues to feel proud that he was able to help his family financially in the past, he feels shame at being unable to help them now, and he is determined to spare them any unnecessary suffering on his account. These details show that he still feels connected to his human past and still considers himself a part of the family. Physically, however, he feels more and more like an insect: his food preferences have completely changed, he feels terrified of his room and safe only under the sofa, and he takes great pleasure in scurrying up the walls and across the ceiling. This tension between Gregor’s mind and body culminates when Grete and the mother take the furniture out of his room. Initially, he feels he would prefer the room to be empty because that would make it more physically comfortable for him. But his ties to his possessions, which represent to him his past as a human, lead him to cling desperately to the photograph of the woman in furs.

Of all the characters, Grete has by far the most interaction with Gregor in Part 2, and over the course of the section their relationship changes dramatically. Though Grete initially wants to care for Gregor and takes on all the burdens of doing so, she cannot bear the sight of him. Notably, after noticing Gregor’s habit of moving the chair to look out the window Grete kindly starts placing the chair by the window for him, but when she inadvertently sees him standing on it later, she is overcome with horror. Gradually, Grete’s disgust appears to wear down her sympathy for Gregor, and while she continues to care for him, she does so evidently more from a sense of duty than love. In fact, she appears to regard caring for Gregor as her role—and thus part of her identity—in the family. She guards that role jealously against the mother, which suggests that Grete performs these duties more for her own sake than for Gregor’s. Gregor, meanwhile, begins to regard Grete’s presence in his room as an intrusion, and he prefers to be entirely alone. By the end of the section, Grete’s and Gregor’s affection for one another has faded completely. Grete appears to consider Gregor a chore and inconvenience, while Gregor feels as alienated from Grete as he does everyone else, making him even more isolated from others.

The reader learns a great deal more in this section about the family’s financial situation, providing a greater understanding of how money shapes the relationships in the Samsa family. Through Gregor’s reporting of the family’s conversations and his own recollections, we learn that the father’s business failed five years earlier and that subsequently the whole family fell into a state of despair. When Gregor first began supporting the family with his income, his parents were extremely grateful, but as they came to expect Gregor’s help, their gratitude diminished and Gregor began to feel alienated from them. These details clarify why the father in particular is so lethargic and unmotivated up to this point. It also explains why Gregor feels so distant from the mother and especially from the father, who is the only member of the Samsa family that Gregor never wishes to see. Moreover, because Gregor cannot work, he acts as an additional burden to the family, possibly contributing to their diminishing sympathy for him.

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Typo

by mjindra5, July 15, 2012

Under Money Motif:

Borders should be spelled boarders.

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14 out of 16 people found this helpful

Quote Issues

by unwrittendesign, September 09, 2012

Don't use these quotes directly from the site. They are not the same as they are in the book.

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47 out of 93 people found this helpful

Metamorphosis analysis

by j4444mes, July 06, 2014

If your interested, there are some ideas regarding Metamorphosis written up here:

http://eternalnonrecurrence.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/kafkaesque-an-analysis-of-metamorphosis/

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8 out of 8 people found this helpful

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