Part 2, Division 1: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2527

Summary

Part 2, division 1, covers the action of the story from twilight of the same day to the removal of Gregor’s furniture from his room.

When Gregor wakes up it is twilight. He is immediately drawn to the smell of food in his room and sees a basin of...

(The entire section contains 2527 words.)

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Summary

Part 2, division 1, covers the action of the story from twilight of the same day to the removal of Gregor’s furniture from his room.

When Gregor wakes up it is twilight. He is immediately drawn to the smell of food in his room and sees a basin of milk with little pieces of bread floating around in it. The sight of the food makes him happy because he knows that no one else but his sister, Grete, left it for him and because she knows that milk is his favorite drink. Instead of drinking the milk, however, Gregor discovers that he has lost his appetite for it and he leaves the milk alone. He also discovers that one of his legs is seriously injured, the result of his father’s assault on him earlier that morning.

A little while later, when Grete returns to his room to check up on her brother, she notices that the milk is untouched. She removes the basin, goes out, but soon returns with a plate full of vegetables, stale cheese, some dry bread, and raisins. Gregor finds this food more to his liking, and he munches hungrily on the cheese. From then on, Gregor is fed twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Grete becomes chiefly responsible for feeding Gregor and tending to his needs.

The cook begs Gregor’s mother to let her leave the house and to quit her job. Her decision is based on the fact that she doesn’t want to be around Gregor anymore. She gives Mrs. Samsa her word of honor that she won’t say anything to anyone about Gregor. Mrs. Samsa consents and the cook leaves.

Gregor is able to overhear his father in the next room talking to his mother and sister about the family’s financial situation. He learns that his father had made some investments years before and that he still has some money put away that the family can live on for the next year or two.

Gregor’s thoughts turn to his former life as a salesman, and he takes pride in the fact that he was able to provide for his family. He also thinks of his former business acquaintances, and he still has the fervent desire to send his sister to the conservatory to study the violin. These thoughts make him a little sad as he listens to his parents and recalls the glory of his past life.

Grete decides that it would be best for Gregor if some of the furniture in his room was removed. This, she thinks, is in his best interest, for it would allow him greater freedom of movement. Mrs. Samsa, at first, resists Grete’s idea but finally gives in and agrees to help her daughter in this task. Gregor, however, likes his furniture; it reminds him of his past and the warm memories associated with it. When the time comes to remove the furniture, Gregor can only look on helplessly as his mother and sister begin to take out the chest and the writing desk. There is, however, one article in the room that Gregor will not let them have, and that is the picture on the wall of the woman dressed in furs. Climbing up on the wall, Gregor spreads himself over the glass, fiercely defying his sister and mother to take the picture from him.

Analysis

The time factor in this part of the story becomes a little blurred. Although it is clearly twilight of the same day when part 2 opens, we learn that, later on, an indefinite period of time will have elapsed, perhaps a few days, perhaps longer; it isn’t clear.

In part 2, Gregor’s health begins to deteriorate. He no longer has any taste for his favorite beverage, milk, and his badly mangled leg hampers his movement and virtually turns him into an invalid. The stage is therefore set for his total physical decline and eventual death. Also, his failing eyesight, which suggests a loss of consciousness, and his reluctance to nourish himself, symbolize his steady withdrawal from the world and intensify his alienation from the human environment.

As this section of the story opens, an eerie silence permeates the apartment. In the living room a light is burning, but Gregor notices through a crack in his door that his father is not reading his newspaper aloud, a habit of his that he indulges in every evening. Gregor has an uneasy feeling when he reflects upon the comfortable life he had provided for his family for the past five years. “But what if all the quiet, the comfort, the contentment were now to end in horror,” he thinks to himself. Gregor now knows that there’s no turning back, that the change in the family roles is irreversible and that he is now completely dependent upon his family for his survival. This thought greatly disturbs him, and he begins to crawl back and forth in his room, agitated and depressed.

During the long night, Gregor hides under the sofa in his room. The sofa becomes his safe harbor, his refuge, the one place where he can hide himself from the world. He lies there thinking about how he can best help his family suffer the inconvenience he has caused them. He has troubled and vague thoughts, and hope occasionally interrupts his thinking. He resolves to be patient and to wait to see what happens next. These thoughts reveal Gregor’s sense of guilt and the profound sense of responsibility he still feels toward his parents and sister. Even in his present condition, he feels that he cannot let them down, and he struggles to find ways to fix things and to accommodate his family.

In the morning, Grete once again enters his room but quickly retreats when she sees him. From under the sofa, Gregor watches her come into the room moments later to pick up the basin of milk and carry it away. She returns presently with other food, this time with a plate of decaying vegetables, raisins, a wedge of hard cheese, a buttered roll, and a basin of water. After Grete leaves, Gregor sniffs at the food and quickly eats the vegetables and the cheese, leaving the fresh food untouched. Since a dung beetle—which is what the cleaning woman in part 3 calls him—is an insect that feeds on excrement, it is interesting that Gregor now finds no pleasure in fresh food but is drawn to the old, stale, decaying vegetables and cheese and the sauce coating the old bones—food that is hardly nutritious to sustain him or give him back his strength.

From the opening pages of part 2, it is clear to the reader that Grete has assumed the major responsibility of caring for her brother. She brings him his food twice a day, and when he is finished eating, she picks up the uneaten remains, collects them in a bucket, and goes out. She is the only one in the family who has the courage to take care of Gregor. That she still loves her brother is clear from the way she expresses her concern for his health and welfare, but as time passes, her concern diminishes, and her attitude toward him changes.

It is clear to Gregor that a wall separates him from his sister. While he knows that Grete can never understand his words, he is struck by the fact that it never occurs to Grete that he can understand her perfectly. All verbal communication between Gregor and his sister is lost, further evidence of Gregor’s alienation from his family and his sense of abandonment.

With the doors to his room partially open for him to eavesdrop on his family’s conversations in the adjoining room, Gregor soon finds out that the cook has asked his mother to be dismissed. Although the cook never states her reasons for wanting to leave, the reader can only assume that she has found out about Gregor and is both repulsed and frightened by him. Mrs. Samsa grants the cook’s wish, and when the cook takes her departure, she promises Mrs. Samsa not to breathe a word of Gregor to anyone. The cook’s desertion from the Samsa household echoes the chief clerk’s flight—both running away from the verminous creature hiding in the next room!

With the cook’s departure, Grete now has to take on an added burden, that of helping her mother prepare the meals for her family. It is one more thankless job that Grete is burdened with. In a very short period of time, her young life has been turned upside down. She is not only Gregor’s caretaker, but she has become his cook and maid as well. She must also exercise extreme prudence and caution whenever she visits him, for although the sight of him no longer alarms her, there is always the possibility that something she does or says in his presence will excite him or irritate him in some way, so she must readjust her behavior and act in a way that is foreign to her, and this helps to change her attitude and personality. These changes in Grete have repercussions for Gregor and for her parents later on in the story when Grete begins to crumble from all the pressure and stress placed on her shoulders. She has replaced Gregor in the family as the exploited child, the child that must now “produce” if the family is to remain strong and healthy. Subtly, Grete is undergoing her own metamorphosis from a young, inexperienced girl of seventeen to a young woman fast outgrowing her adolescence by the many roles that have been thrust upon her by Gregor’s transformation.

Gregor is able to overhear his father discussing the family’s affairs with his wife and daughter. Although Mr. Samsa’s business had failed five years earlier, Mr. Samsa, the shrewd businessman, still has some money left over from some investments he made at the time; money enough, he tells his wife, for the family to live on for another year or two. This news cheers Gregor. It was because of his father’s business failure that Gregor became a traveling salesman in the first place. In the beginning of his new career, Gregor was quite successful and his travels brought a lot of money into the firm. He was able to pay all the household expenses himself. His parents seemed to take his money for granted, getting used to an easy, comfortable, trouble-free life. They never expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Gregor in a way that would have pleased him. When Gregor recalls his former life, it is with a sense of regret and disappointment, not bitterness. Only his sister, he feels, has remained close to him, and it is for this reason that he still thinks of sending her off to the conservatory to study the violin. He wistfully recalls how he had promised himself to do just that, and announce his decision to his parents on Christmas Day, as he listens intently to his father discuss the family’s financial arrangements in the next room.

Although Gregor is happy to learn that there is money enough for the family to live on for a while, he realizes that his aging father and ailing mother are in no condition to go out and work for a living. His sister, who has had little experience of life, is quite incapable of taking on the responsibility of a job. All her life, Grete has entertained herself with frivolous matters, and with the possible exception of her violin, she has not devoted herself to anything serious. These grim reminders of his family’s dire circumstances throw Gregor into turmoil and despair. His guilt gnaws away at him; he is filled with shame and grief for the horrible burden he has placed on his family, and he feels most wretched in having disappointed them.

As the days and nights pass, Gregor is slowly losing his ability to see. The hospital outside his window grows dimmer by the day, the view from his window when he gazes through it, seems like a vast expanse of “desert waste,” where “grey sky and grey land blended indistinguishable into each other.”

Gregor’s weak eyesight; his general lassitude; his morbid, afflicted thoughts; his expenditure of effort whenever he pushes the armchair to the window after Grete moves it back into the room are strong indicators that Gregor’s powers are rapidly declining. The “grey sky” and “grey land” suggest that heaven and earth have become one for him, namely, a “desert waste” and nothing more.

Grete’s attitude and behavior also show signs of change. When she enters Gregor’s room, her movements are impatient and rushed. She can’t wait to put down his food and be gone. Her haste and impatience distress Gregor, and he takes to hiding under his sofa with a sheet pulled down over his face so as not to give Grete too much of his repulsive body to look at. Gregor realizes that the sight of him still disgusts his sister, and thinking only of her, he labors for hours to drag the sheet over to the sofa—anything to please her and to spare her any more discomfort, unhappiness, and displeasure. Here we have the physically repulsive and sorely afflicted Gregor expressing his worry and concern and love for his healthy young sister, who, when she enters his room, displays nothing but her uneasiness and indifference toward her brother.

Gregor’s love for Grete is both powerful and undeniable. It connects him to all that is human and divine in life, all that is lasting and eternal. It matters little to him that his love is not returned, for Gregor has always been a loving, self-sacrificing son and brother, sacrificing his time and energy to the firm and family and seeing to it that his elderly parents were comfortable and secure. Not even as an insect does Gregor fail to feel the stirrings of love in his heart. This profound feeling of love and attachment that Gregor feels for Grete propels him toward making the ultimate sacrifice in part 3.

With the passage of time, Mrs. Samsa grows restless and impatient and wants to see her son. “Do let me in to Gregor,” she says, “he is my unfortunate son. Can’t you understand that I must go to him?” Grete makes arrangements for her mother to visit Gregor, but before this can be done, Grete feels that Gregor needs more room to move about unhindered and decides to remove most of the furniture from his room. She notices that, among other things, Gregor has taken to climbing the walls and ceiling and that one of his favorite games is to hang suspended from the ceiling. Indeed, Gregor has grown accustomed to his new body, and he has more control over it than before. These acrobatics allow him to rest and relax and to enjoy blissful states of consciousness.

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