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 3 Summary

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The apple remains in Gregor’s back and seems to soften even his father’s disgust for him; the family goes on to tolerate Gregor’s new form. In the evenings, they leave his door open so he can observe and feel somewhat part of the family. Gregor’s mother has begun to work, sewing garments for a store, while his sister is working as a saleswoman and training for a clerical job at night. His father wears his uniform whenever he is at home, dirtying his coat but seeming to always be ready to jump up and go to work at a moment’s notice.

The family’s financial circumstances sink even lower; they have to sell valuable items and would like to move to a small apartment but cannot think of moving Gregor. He continues to feel guilty when he hears the despair in his mother’s and sister’s voices and their weeping over the situation.

Sometimes, however, Gregor feels angry at his family for not caring for him better. Grete’s trips into his room to bring food or clean up are executed as quickly as possible. The cleaning of Gregor’s room leads to conflict among the other family members while Gregor hisses in rage from inside his room. Their servant, an old widow, takes to checking in on Gregor and looking at him thoughtfully. She calls him over, but he refuses to move, and he begins to resent her interest. One day, he decides to try to attack her, and she readies herself to hit him with a chair. But Gregor is too feeble to make it across the room.

The family rents a room to three men who will tolerate no mess or disorder. Therefore, anything that is dirty or in their way is moved to Gregor’s room. The lodgers eat their meals in the dining room at the table where Gregor’s family used to share dinners, while the family eats in the kitchen. One night, the lodgers hear Grete playing violin and ask her to come into the main part of the house where the lodgers are sitting and reading the newspaper. Gregor feels drawn to the music and starts inching toward the living room, indifferent to how dirty and monstrous he will look to the others.

At first no one notices or pays attention, but soon the lodgers get up from their seats and gather on the other side of the room. They point Gregor out to Mr. Samsa and demand an explanation. Meanwhile, Gregor fantasizes about bonding with his sister, imagining that when he shows his appreciation for her violin playing, she will return his praise with affection. The lodgers have by now gone to their room; when they come back out, they announce they will not pay rent for the time they have stayed there and will also press charges against the family.

After the lodgers leave, Grete announces to her parents that they must find a way to get rid of the insect that she claims can no longer be considered Gregor. She argues that they work too hard to have to deal with this kind of stress when they are at home. Grete tries to convince her parents that they will die as a result of their intense stress and that they must no longer think of Gregor as their son. When Gregor moves toward her, she sprints away in fear; he had simply been trying to go back to his room. With great effort, Gregor makes it back inside, and Grete abruptly slams and locks the door behind him. Once in the room, Gregor finds he cannot move, but he feels completely sure, even more so than Grete, that he must leave his family behind. Gregor takes his last breath that night.

The next morning, the servant receives no response from Gregor and eventually realizes he is dead. Grete notices how thin Gregor was, and the family members all cross themselves in the presence of the body. The lodgers come out of their room demanding breakfast before proceeding to assemble around Gregor’s corpse. Mr. Samsa yells at them to leave the apartment, which they do. After watching the lodgers leave, they return to their home “as if freed from a burden.” Mr. and Mrs. Samsa and Grete all decide to take the day off of work and go for a walk together. Before they leave, the servant announces that she has taken care of “that thing next door,” but no one wants to hear any details, so she leaves. Mr. Samsa vows to fire the servant.

As the family goes out into the city for the first time in several months, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa realize that Grete has become quite beautiful and will need to find a husband soon. They dream of a smaller apartment, free of the memory of Gregor, and of their daughter’s future.

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Chapter 2 Summary