Full title  The Metamorphosis

Author Franz Kafka

Type of work Short story/novella

Genre Absurdism

Language German

Time and place written Prague, 1912

Date of first publication 1915

Publisher Kurt Wolff Verlag

Narrator The narrator is an anonymous figure who recounts the events of the story in a flat, neutral tone.

Point of view The narrator speaks exclusively in the third person, focusing primarily on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of Gregor Samsa. The narrator only describes events that Gregor sees, hears, remembers, or imagines from the actions around him.

Tone The narrator’s tone is flat and unchanging, describing even the most outlandish events in a neutral fashion.

Tense Past tense

Setting (time) Unspecified, though references to trains and streetcars suggest the late-nineteenth century or early twentieth century

Setting (place) The Samsa family’s apartment in an unspecified city

Protagonist Gregor Samsa

Major conflict Gregor Samsa struggles to reconcile his humanity with his transformation into a giant bug

Rising action When Gregor Samsa wakes up inexplicably transformed into a giant bug, he must handle the consequences in terms of his understanding of himself and his relationship with his family

Climax Unable to bear the thought that all evidence of his human life will be removed from his room, he clings to the picture of the woman in furs, startling Grete and the mother and leading the father to attack him

Falling action Gregor, injured in the father’s attack, slowly weakens, venturing out of his room once more to hear Grete play the violin and dying shortly thereafter

Themes The absurdity of life; the disconnect between mind and body; the limits of sympathy; alienation

Motifs Metamorphosis; sleep and rest; money

Symbols The picture of the woman in furs; the father’s uniform; food

Foreshadowing Gregor is seriously injured after he leaves the room a second time and he stops eating and sleeping, foreshadowing his eventual death; the family gradually takes less interest in Gregor, foreshadowing their decision to get rid of him