The Metamorphosis Part 1, Division 1: Summary and Analysis
by Franz Kafka

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Part 1, Division 1: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Gregor Samsa: the protagonist or hero of the story

Mr. Samsa: the protagonist’s father; an old man, described as having bushy eyebrows and black eyes

Grete: the protagonist’s younger sister; 17 years old, she plays the violin

Mrs. Samsa: the protagonist’s mother; she suffers from asthma and is anxious to please her husband

Anna: the 16-year-old servant girl

Chief Clerk: a bureaucrat representing the Chief

Although The Metamorphosis falls neatly into three parts, for the purposes of our discussion, we will divide the work itself into six parts. Part 1, Division 1 covers the action of the story from early morning to the chief clerk’s discovery of Gregor Samsa.

When Gregor Samsa awakes one misty, rainy morning in his bed, he is astonished to learn that he has been changed into a gigantic insect. He looks around his room and sees all the familiar sights and objects of his former life as a traveling salesman—the sample cloths laid out on his table, his writing desk and chest, the ticking alarm clock, the picture of the woman clothed in furs on the wall that he had cut out of a magazine and framed—and comes to the conclusion that he must have been dreaming. When he tries to move around in his bed and over onto his right side, he discovers that what has happened to him is, after all, no dream and that he is indeed a huge insect, with all the physical characteristics of an insect—a hard back, dome-like belly, and numerous legs.

Outside, as the rain beats down on his window pane, Gregor’s thoughts turn to his job and to the nature of his work as a salesman. Nevertheless, he is resolved to leave his job one day when he has saved enough money and paid off his parents’ personal debts to the chief of the company.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking away, and Gregor becomes more anxious, fearful and worried since he is now already more than an hour late for work. His anxious parents call out to him through his locked door to find out why he hasn’t opened his door and come out for his breakfast. As Gregor decides upon a course of action and how best to leave his bed without injuring himself or making too much noise, the chief clerk of his office arrives to find out why Gregor hasn’t reported for work that morning. Gregor fears this man as much as he fears the Chief himself and, when he hears the chief clerk’s voice on the other side of his door, his anxiety rises.

Mr. Samsa knocks on Gregor’s door, and then Grete calls to him, wanting to know if he’s all right and whether or not he needs anything. When Gregor does finally force himself off the bed, he lands on the floor with a crash loud enough to be heard in the next room. The chief clerk reacts with some alarm and then addresses Gregor rather harshly, telling him his work has been less than satisfactory, and that his job is in jeopardy. Gregor weakly responds that he has been ill. He defends his work and service to the company and assures the chief clerk that he is now all right and will be coming out shortly.

When Gregor still doesn’t emerge from his room, his parents send Grete and the servant girl, Anna, for the doctor and the locksmith. Resolved to leave his room, since he is now convinced that his family and the chief clerk think there is something wrong with him, Gregor struggles to turn the key in his locked bedroom door, but the effort takes all his strength, persistence, and cunning. He can only manage to turn the key with his teeth, but after a while, he succeeds in opening the door. The chief clerk is the first to see Gregor as he emerges from his room.

Since its publication in 1915, The Metamorphosis has intrigued, troubled, puzzled, astonished, and mystified readers. Part of its universal appeal lies in its very subject matter—a conflicted family that must learn to deal with a strange occurrence within the family. On one level, it is the story about an exploited, grown son’s refusal to work and to support his family, to take refuge...

(The entire section is 3,842 words.)