One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.

This quotation, one of the most famous opening lines in modern literature, introduces the subject matter of The Metamorphosis and indicates how that subject matter will be treated throughout the story. The line has a notably flat, matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t remark on the oddness of the incident. On the contrary, the line treats Gregor’s change as though it were an ordinary event, and it never raises the issue of how or why Gregor undergoes his metamorphosis, implying that the change has occurred without any particular cause or for any particular reason. In doing so, it creates a sense that the world we see in the story is inherently purposeless and random, rather than rational and ordered, and that such events are to some degree to be expected. Thus the opening line exemplifies the idea of absurdism, which asserts that humans exist in an irrational, chaotic universe beyond our full understanding.

Although the opening line is narrated in the third person, it also reflects Gregor’s own attitude toward his change. Gregor never attempts to determine why or how he transformed into a bug. Instead, he appears to accept the change as an unfortunate incident, like an accident or illness, and doesn’t get particularly upset about it. In fact, after his transformation he continues to think about relatively normal subjects, like his family’s financial situation and his own physical comfort. Consequently, Gregor himself embodies this absurdist point of view exemplified in the opening line. He is the victim of an evidently purposeless and random metamorphosis, which he treats as though it were not completely unusual, suggesting he at least somewhat expects the world he lives in to be an irrational and chaotic place.