illustration of a giant insect with the outline of a man in a suit standing within the confines of the insect

The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka

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Chapter 2 Summary

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Last Updated on October 31, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 765

Gregor sleeps for several hours, awakening at dusk. He is no longer tired but realizes he is extremely hungry when he smells food. Grete has left Gregor some milk with pieces of bread soaked in it, a former favorite of his, but Gregor finds he no longer enjoys it. As he tries to observe the life of the house from inside his room, he notices how quiet it is and feels proud of himself for providing his family with a comfortable lifestyle. On second thought, he realizes the silence may be a result of their fear of his transformation. Gregor starts to crawl around the room to keep his body active instead of dwelling on how he may have negatively impacted his family. He starts to experiment with his new body, fitting himself under a sofa and later hanging upside down from the ceiling.

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The next morning, Grete comes in quietly to leave Gregor a new variety of food options. He wants to thank her but is concerned she will be frightened. Grete is careful not to touch anything in Gregor’s room with her bare hands and instead uses a rag to pick things up. Gregor finds himself most pleased with the cheese that, two days earlier, he had disdained because it seemed to have gone bad. He learns that his injury from the day before has quickly healed. He continues his feast, ignoring the freshest foods in favor of the staler ones. 

When Grete returns, Gregor scurries under the sofa. He reflects on how his family does not try to communicate with him verbally anymore, though he can understand them; for example, he hears his sister praying. Most of the conversation he hears over the next days and weeks involves himself. The girl who was their cook begged to leave her post, so now Grete prepares their meals. Gregor learns more about the family’s finances: they have a small sum left over from Gregor’s father’s business, which declared bankruptcy five years earlier. Gregor remembers his own successes at work and how he quickly rose in position and made enough money to support the family.

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During the years Gregor was the family’s sole breadwinner, his father gained weight and mostly lay around the house; however, now he must go back to work so they don’t have to use their small nest egg immediately. Later in the chapter, Gregor’s father is nicely dressed in a uniform that he now never removes, and Gregor is stunned to see that his father is capable of providing for the family after so many years of inactivity. Gregor feels ashamed that his mother and sister may have to work as a result of his transformation.

A month after his transformation, Gregor’s sister still seems afraid to see him, as evidenced by her cautious movements in his room. Gregor decides to cover himself with a sheet to spare Grete any glimpse of him. He hears his mother begging to see him and starts to wish she could pay him a visit.

When his mother enters the room, she tells Grete that they should leave the furniture where it is so that when Gregor becomes human again he will be in familiar surroundings. Grete, on the other hand, wants to make the space easier for Gregor to navigate in his insect form. Gregor realizes that he is forgetting some of his human characteristics already, but the sound of his mother’s voice brings him back to his former self. Because Grete has taken charge of caring for Gregor, their mother agrees to help Grete continue to move the furniture. Gregor is greatly disturbed by the noise this involves, and he also begins to wish that not all of his possessions would be removed. He covers the picture hanging on his wall with his own body so that no one can take it.

Grete doesn’t want her mother to see Gregor in this state, but she comes in anyway and is shocked. Grete fetches smelling salts in case their mother faints. Feeling anxious, Gregor crawls all around the room.

When Mr. Samsa comes home, Grete reports that his wife fainted after seeing Gregor. Mr. Samsa thinks Gregor must have been aggressive toward Mrs. Samsa, and Gregor wants to let him know that was not the case. Gregor is surprised to see his father dressed in business attire. Mr. Samsa chases Gregor around before throwing apples at him, one of which gets stuck in his back. Grete is worried that their father will kill Gregor.

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Chapter 1 Summary

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Chapter 3 Summary