Part 2, Division 2: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2373

Summary

Part 2, division 2, covers the action from the sighting of Gregor on the wall by Mrs. Samsa to Mr. Samsa’s bombarding Gregor with apples.

After Grete and Mrs. Samsa remove Gregor’s writing desk and place it in the next room along with the other furniture, they start back...

(The entire section contains 2373 words.)

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Summary

Part 2, division 2, covers the action from the sighting of Gregor on the wall by Mrs. Samsa to Mr. Samsa’s bombarding Gregor with apples.

After Grete and Mrs. Samsa remove Gregor’s writing desk and place it in the next room along with the other furniture, they start back to his room to see what other pieces they can take out. Gregor is so agitated and distraught over the removal of his furniture that he runs around his room in a panic hoping to save what is left. The picture of the woman on the wall catches his eye and he flies up to it and clings to it tenaciously, determined at any cost to hold onto it.

Grete sees him first as she and her mother reenter Gregor’s room. She tries to shield her mother’s eyes from the sight of Gregor spread out against the wall, but when the weary Mrs. Samsa lifts her eyes to the wall and sees Gregor hanging onto the picture, she screams, “Oh, God, Oh, God!” and falls down on the sofa.

Alarmed, Grete runs out of the room and into another room to get something to revive her stricken mother. Worrying that his mother may be dying, Gregor rushes out of the room and follows Grete, but when the two meet, Grete panics at the sight of him and drops one of the bottles she is holding. A piece of shattered glass cuts Gregor’s face. Grete then dashes out of the room, slamming the door behind her, locking Gregor inside.

Presently, Mr. Samsa returns to the apartment. He is dressed in a bank messenger’s uniform with gold buttons and a service cap. When he notices his wife sprawled out on the floor, with Grete bending over her, Mr. Samsa demands to know what happened, and when Grete tells him that Gregor has gotten loose in the apartment, he grows enraged and glares at Gregor, who by this time, has freed himself from the room. As soon as Gregor sees the fire in Mr. Samsa’s eyes, he retreats to his bedroom.

Driven by a strong desire to punish Gregor for making Mrs. Samsa suffer, Mr. Samsa picks up some apples and starts to throw them at Gregor. One apple grazes Gregor’s back, and another one finds its mark and sinks deeply into his back.

Mortally wounded, Gregor soon loses consciousness. Before he blacks out, though, he sees his mother pick herself up and fly into Mr. Samsa’s arms. With her clothes in disarray, Mrs. Samsa runs terrified and screaming into her husband’s comforting embrace and pleads with him to spare her son’s life.

Analysis

When the time approaches for Mrs. Samsa and Grete to enter Gregor’s room to remove his furniture, Gregor takes refuge under the sofa with the sheet practically covering his entire body. Only his head sticks out from beneath the sofa so he can better observe his mother and sister in the room. For about fifteen minutes, the two women struggle to remove the heavy chest, but after a while, Mrs. Samsa has a sudden change of heart. She realizes that by removing Gregor’s furniture, they would be showing him that they have given up on him ever returning to normal or improving in any way. Mrs. Samsa still clings to the hope that Gregor will one day get better, and she tells Grete that when that day comes, Gregor will want to see the furniture in his room just as it was before his metamorphosis.

Grete, however, still wants the furniture out, and after a heated argument, Mrs. Samsa finally gives in. After the chest is removed, the writing desk is the next piece of furniture to be taken out. Immediately, Gregor reacts to this outrage. His writing desk is something important to him; it holds sweet memories for him when he used to do his homework at it; it represents the toil and labor of his young life in grammar school. It is another strong link to his past that he feels cut off from if it is taken from him. All he could do, though, is watch as the desk is loosened from the floor and removed and carried out into the adjoining room. Affronted and provoked, Gregor comes out from under the sofa and rushes about the room, wondering what he can salvage and keep from his sister’s hands.

Suddenly, the picture of the woman on the wall attracts his attention and he hurriedly crawls up toward it, flattening himself against the glass and adhering to it with his sticky legs. Clinging ferociously to it, he challenges Grete and his mother to take it away from him. This is the first time in the story that we see Gregor asserting himself and fighting for what is rightfully his. This shows us that Gregor is still very much alive, that his will has not been broken. He has suffered both mentally and physically since his metamorphosis, but he will not suffer the loss of his favorite picture, even if it means doing harm to Grete.

The reader must begin to wonder at this point why Gregor feels so strongly about this picture. Who is the woman in it? What does she represent, wrapped in her furs, and why is Gregor so determined to keep it all for himself? The picture may symbolize the eternal image of maternal love for Gregor, or perhaps the woman reminds Gregor of Mrs. Samsa herself, fashionably dressed in expensive furs. Whatever its meaning, the picture is enough to turn Gregor from an accepting, passive observer to an aggressive, active participant in his own drama, risking everything—life and limb—in that one defiant act of covering the picture with his entire body.

When Mrs. Samsa reenters Gregor’s room with her daughter, she sees her son clinging to the picture. The sight of him like that so frightens her that she falls in a faint on the sofa. Agitated and alarmed, Grete instantly rushes out into another room to get something to revive her mother with. Worried about his mother’s frail health, Gregor leaves the wall and runs out after Grete. But when he surprises her and she comes face to face with her brother, Grete drops one of the bottles she is clutching in her hand and runs out, locking the door behind her. A sliver of glass cuts Gregor’s face, and now he’s shut out once again from his mother and sister. Alone, he thinks his mother may be dying, but there is nothing he can do at this point, and so he waits and tries to calm himself down.

Gregor’s father, who has been out of the apartment, now returns. He has found work as a bank messenger and he enters the apartment dressed in his messenger’s uniform—a handsome blue uniform with gold buttons and cap. Noticing at once his wife’s prostrate body with Grete leaning over her in an attempt to revive her, Mr. Samsa becomes alarmed and frightened and demands to know what happened in his absence. Grete tells him that Gregor has gotten loose. Mr. Samsa is not surprised. He knew that something like this was going to happen someday, and now his worst fear has been realized.

Meanwhile, Gregor manages to leave the room. Afraid that his father thinks he’s done something monstrous, he tries to return to his room and hides near the door. He shows enough of himself, however, to his father to let him know that he’s done nothing wrong, that he’s not responsible for Mrs. Samsa’s afflicted condition. When Mr. Samsa notices Gregor cowering before him in the doorway, he cries out, “Ah!” in a menacing, angry voice.

Gregor hardly recognizes his father in his new bank uniform. He looks fit and healthy, tall and strong as he comes bearing down on him. The figure of his father now before him—his white hair parted neatly on either side of his head, his sharp black eyes burning into him, his bushy eyebrows—bears little resemblance to the man who was his father when he stayed home and waited for Gregor to return from one of his business trips. The contrast for Gregor is striking, and it inspires fear and dread in his heart. Gregor can only try to run out to meet his father in an attempt to pacify him. The two confront one another, then circle each other like two antagonists. But again, Gregor can hardly stand up to his father, and before long, his breath gives out, and he tries to stagger back to his room.

Several apples begin to rain down on him, and only when one grazes his back does Gregor realize that his father is trying to murder him! Another apple gets stuck in his back, and in his feeble attempts to escape the punishing missiles, he falls and lies crushed under the weight of the embedded apple lodged in his back. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees his mother running to his father’s outstretched arms, sees her disheveled clothes and their desperate embrace, and then he blacks out.

This is the most harrowing scene in the story, perhaps one of the most brutal and gripping scenes in modern literature. The scene is both arresting and compelling for several reasons: for the understated horror and pain it evokes and for the sheer cruelty it paints of an innocent, defenseless son suffering the undeserved punishment of the powerful, vengeful father.

The sexual symbolism of the scene, with its reenactment of the Oedipus conflict, is all too clear. Here we have the reborn, rejuvenated father returning to the apartment in a position of strength and authority only to witness the sight of his stricken wife down on the floor, her clothing loosened about her body, her flesh exposed, and the frightened, trembling cause of it all hiding behind his bedroom door. Gregor, who had supplanted his father in the household as the breadwinner and therefore as the “surrogate” husband, now finds himself at his father’s mercy. Mr. Samsa, who now wears his new uniform on his back like a badge of paternal authority for all to see, must punish his son, the transgressor, the root cause of his wife’s shameless suffering. The weak and ineffectual father, who once lounged around the house in his dressing gown waiting for his son to hand him his salary, has himself been transformed in Gregor’s eyes into a tyrannical monster who now earns his own wages.

Almost from the very beginning of Gregor’s metamorphosis, Mr. Samsa has been unwilling to accept Gregor as his son. Mrs. Samsa and Grete have shown a willingness to do just that, but from the start, the father rejected his son and effectively cast him out of his life. Reduced to the verminous form of an insect, Gregor is a constant reminder of the grotesque, weak, and pitiful aberration that Mr. Samsa has sired. And now that Gregor has truly revealed himself in all his audacious and spiteful behavior, Mr. Samsa is driven to destroy him. In his eyes, Gregor has become everything loathsome to him—puny, parasitic, weak, a being clothed in a personality lacking in strength—not the kind of son this once strong, successful, and ambitious storekeeper could be proud of. Mr. Samsa is a victim of his own drives and obsessions, but it is noteworthy that what sets him on his murderous rampage is the sight of his tearful, helpless wife lying on the floor in nothing but her “underbodice,” her petticoats loosened around her, her bare flesh shamefully exposed.

By the end of part 2, the reader is made aware of the significant changes that have occurred in the lives of the characters. For one thing, Grete no longer shows the same exuberant behavior in caring for Gregor that she did at the beginning of the story. She is unable to bear the full weight of the responsibility that has been thrust upon her as Gregor’s servant and maid. The ambivalence she feels is slowly pushing her toward the edge and is forcing her toward some fateful decision.

Mrs. Samsa seems the most torn by Gregor’s misfortune. On one level, she is still horrified and repelled by Gregor, but in pleading for her son’s life, she demonstrates the love and concern she still has for him as his mother. Her son can provoke her husband’s wrath, but she will not allow him to murder him right before her eyes.

Mr. Samsa, on the other hand, is indomitable in his refusal to show the least tenderness, understanding, or sympathy for what has befallen Gregor. And now that Gregor must live off his salary, Mr. Samsa wants him out of the way for good. He has no further use for him since Gregor is no longer any use to the family. Acting as the family judge and jury, Mr. Samsa sentences his son to a certain death.

As for Gregor himself, the most important change is that he is now totally dependent upon his family for his very survival, but most of all upon his father, since it is Mr. Samsa who now wields all the power and influence in the household and who now makes all the important decisions affecting his life.

Helpless, unable to articulate his thoughts and feelings to his father, without love, without any friends, without even his one-time business associates, stripped of his furniture, alone, mortally wounded, Gregor is now at his father’s mercy. Reduced by his metamorphosis to living off his parents like a child, Gregor has no escape route, no one to appeal to, and no one to save him.

The rotting apple in his back, which remains embedded in his flesh, is a constant reminder of his father’s wrath and cruelty. His powerful, godlike father has cast him out of “Eden” and, with the tossing of the apples, has crushed his failure of a son to earth. Gregor’s fate is now sealed.

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