Part 1, Division 2: Summary and Analysis
The chief clerk leaps back in fright and shock, with one hand clasped to his gaping mouth. Then Gregor’s mother notices him and her reaction is swift and certain: she falls to the floor in a heap, holding her grief-stricken face in her hands. Mr. Samsa can only look on and cry when he sees his unrecognizable and repulsive son.
Realizing that he must do something to explain himself to the chief clerk, Gregor follows him to the stairway in an attempt to reason with him and to calm his fears. However, as soon as he tries to open his mouth to speak, the chief clerk runs out of the house, forgetting his walking stick in the apartment.
As Gregor’s mother recovers and straightens up, she accidentally knocks over the coffee pot standing on the breakfast table. The coffee spills all over the floor. The sight of the spilled liquid causes Gregor to snap his jaws together repeatedly, and this inhuman, repugnant sound so frightens Mrs. Samsa that she rushes with a howl into the waiting arms of her husband, who glowers steadily at Gregor.
Gregor’s father, who seems both astonished and angry, picks up the chief clerk’s walking stick and a rolled up newspaper and begins to drive Gregor back into his room. Panic-stricken, Gregor falls back and away from his enraged father, and when he turns in the doorway of his room to escape his father’s wrath, his body gets caught in the frame. His helpless legs can only flutter wildly in the air while “horrid blotches” ooze from his injured flank. His torment is finally ended when Mr. Samsa gives him one sudden, swift shove into his room.
The door slams behind Gregor, and the silence of the room engulfs him.
The way Gregor’s parents and the chief clerk respond when they finally see Gregor’s unnatural and grotesque body—shock and horror, pain and sorrow, grief and despair, respectively—illuminate the human range of response to anything that is unfamiliar, unnatural, strange, bizarre, and unexpected. Such human responses seem natural enough, for how else can these people react to the sight of their transformed son and business employee? Does Gregor have some perverse motive in showing himself to his parents and the chief clerk? Does he want to shock them out of their hum-drum, everyday life experience? The scene provides the reader with an element of the absurd and the comic. The incongruity of Gregor finally placing himself within sight of everyone concerned about his welfare is so stark and extraordinary and so innocent in its intention, that the spectators who view him naked as an insect have no immediate verbal response, are unable to articulate their feelings, and can only express them on Gregor’s own level, that is, demonstratively.
Mr. Samsa’s tears perhaps tell us more about his initial response than ordinarily meets the eye. In that one startled glance at his son, doesn’t he also see in a flash the loss of Gregor’s job and income and the end of the very comfortable life that has sustained him and his family for the past five years? Is he not weeping for his own life and for that of his wife and daughter who now face poverty, illness, and even worse?
For his part, Gregor remains relatively calm after revealing himself. Part of him, of course, has not been altered. The human in him reaching out to others for acceptance and understanding, the need to explain himself fully, to try to apologize to his parents for any inconvenience he may have caused them—all of this is still very much alive in him and is directly connected to his human capacity for feeling, guilt, and remorse. It shows us that Gregor, in his changed state, is opening his heart and soul to his family in ways that he was incapable of doing before his metamorphosis. This is a sign of health and growth, and one of the more fascinating aspects of the story is to see this understanding and love blossom in Gregor even as his physical self begins the long process of decline, decay, and disintegration.
(The entire section is 2,324 words.)