Part 3, Division 2: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3155

Summary

The action of part 3, division 2, begins with Gregor’s emergence from his room during Grete’s violin concert and ends with his death and the Samsa family’s emotional and spiritual rebirth.

From his room, Gregor hears Grete’s violin and sticks his head out of his room to listen. One...

(The entire section contains 3155 words.)

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Summary

The action of part 3, division 2, begins with Gregor’s emergence from his room during Grete’s violin concert and ends with his death and the Samsa family’s emotional and spiritual rebirth.

From his room, Gregor hears Grete’s violin and sticks his head out of his room to listen. One of the lodgers notices him and immediately alerts Mr. Samsa. Mr. Samsa tries to assuage his boarders, but one of the lodgers is so outraged at the sight of Gregor that he threatens to sue Mr. Samsa for damages and for causing him to live in such a close proximity to Gregor. The two other lodgers also protest their disgusting and inexcusable living conditions, and they threaten Mr. Samsa with a lawsuit as well, reminding him that they will not pay a penny for their room.

Because of this new crisis, Grete steps forward and takes matters into her own hands. She delivers an impassioned speech to her parents about the impossibility of living in the same apartment with Gregor. She argues that Gregor is no longer her brother and that he will some day drive them all into the gutter if he’s allowed to get his way. She boldly suggests that they try to get rid of him, that his presence in the house is intolerable. Mr. Samsa nods and tacitly agrees with her. He tries to comfort her and soothe her worries, but he is at a loss as to the best way to dispose of Gregor.

Once Gregor returns to his room, he begins to feel a sense of relief. The pain in his back no longer bothers him, and although his whole body still aches, he feels comfortable, calm, and at peace with himself. He comes to the realization that Grete is probably right, that the best thing for him to do is disappear from their lives and to spare his family any further grief and heartache. He begins to think of his family with great affection and love. The only solution, he concludes, for all concerned, is for him simply to go away.

At three o’clock in the morning, with the clock chiming outside his window, Gregor takes his last breath and dies.

The following morning, the cleaning woman goes into Gregor’s room. At first, she thinks he is sleeping and does not want to disturb him, but when she playfully pokes him with her broom, she realizes that he is dead. She announces his death in a loud voice and then hurries to the Samsa bedroom to tell them the news.

Upon hearing the news of Gregor’s death, Mr. Samsa thanks God, and then the three lodgers are brought to Gregor’s room to see the corpse for themselves. After they have a look at the flattened body on the floor, the three lodgers are ordered to leave the apartment for good by Mr. Samsa. The cleaning woman assures Mr. and Mrs. Samsa that they have nothing to worry about, for she has already disposed of Gregor’s body. After that, the cleaning woman is fired by Mr. Samsa.

The Samsas decide to take a rest and inform their employers by letter that they are going on a short holiday. They board a train for the country. They fix their attention on Grete, who, despite her terrible ordeal of the last few months, has blossomed into an eligible, young, beautiful bride.

After what they have just endured, the Samsas’ future looms bright and promising.

Analysis

The three lodgers are relaxing after dinner one night, smoking their cigars and reading their newspapers, when they hear Grete’s violin playing from the kitchen. Startled by the music, the three men rise in unison and move into another room, where they gather closely together and whisper to each other. Anxious that the three boarders might be offended by Grete’s playing, Mr. Samsa asks them if her music is disturbing them, but they respond otherwise and insist that Grete continue playing for them in the room where they have just retired. The music stops momentarily while Mr. and Mrs. Samsa carry the music stand and the music into their room. Grete resumes playing for them, but this time the unpredictable lodgers express their displeasure with her playing and turn away from her, blowing cigar smoke all over the room.

In his room, Gregor hears the sweet music and is instantly drawn to it. The music has a soothing and profound effect on him. Looking out into the next room, he sees Grete’s angelic expression as she plays, and he follows her face as she moves her eyes sadly to the notes coming from her violin. The extraordinary power of Grete’s playing evokes warm, fond memories in Gregor, and all the love and deep affection he once felt for his sister comes flooding back into his heart. The music triggers one of Gregor’s fantasies—to have his sister in his room all to himself. He imagines what it would be like if she came to his room to play just for him. He knows that she would not try to run away from him, but would remain with him while he guarded all the doors against all intruders. He would tell her again of his plans to send her away to the conservatory, and Grete would be so moved and thrilled by his generosity that she would break down and cry, and she would even allow him to kiss her on her bare neck.

While the incestuous nature of this fantasy cannot be overlooked, it is the anguish and despair, the loneliness and solitude that feed Gregor’s illusions. Gregor is trying to recapture a world and a time that are no longer accessible to him. He pictures himself as Grete’s hero, protecting her from outsiders and sending her to music school, but he can hardly defend himself, and his dream of enrolling her in the conservatory will never materialize. “He would never let her out of his room, at least, not so long as he lived.” He would enjoy her playing, her companionship and friendship, and the physical intimacy, as evidenced by the “kiss on the neck,” is a hunger born of sexual need and human affection and understanding.

Gregor’s dream is soon shattered, and he is brought back to reality when one of the lodgers notices him in the doorway and points him out to Mr. Samsa.

Apprehensive, Mr. Samsa tries to mollify the lodger, but soon all three men are looking at Gregor in the doorway, more with amusement and curiosity than with dismay. As Mr. Samsa tries to urge the three lodgers back into their room, the men become upset and angry, but it’s not clear whether they are angry because of Mr. Samsa’s sudden aggressive behavior or because they now fully realize that they have been sharing an apartment with a monstrous, repulsive insect and have been duped in some way.

One of the lodgers begins to protest that he has been swindled and deceived and, stamping his foot loudly and spitting on the floor, threatens to take Mr. Samsa to court for damages. Very soon, the two other lodgers join in the chorus of denunciation and refuse to pay one penny for their room, given the disgusting and disgraceful conditions of the apartment. These threats stab Mr. Samsa in the heart and throw the whole household into utter chaos. All Mr. Samsa can do at this point is sink into his armchair and hold his twitching head in his hands, while the three lodgers scurry back to the safety of their room.

The air is charged with tension. Grete’s violin, which has been resting in Mrs. Samsa’s lap, falls to the floor with a resounding crash.

At this critical juncture, a sense of gloom descends upon the apartment. Seizing the opportunity, Grete is the first to speak as soon as the three men return to their room. She addresses her parents passionately, in a tone that is full of repressed anger and resentment. This is an important turning point in the story, both for Grete and for Gregor’s fate.

Grete lets her parents know exactly how she feels about Gregor. She tells them that they can no longer go on living with Gregor, that he has become an imposition and a hindrance in their lives, that he will drive the lodgers away and, eventually, if he gets his way, put his family out on the street. More importantly, she no longer refers to Gregor as her brother, but uses the impersonal pronoun “it” when referring to him, and she speaks of him as a “creature” and not as a human being. For Grete, Gregor has become completely dehumanized, and it is therefore easier for her to talk about the only solution left for them, namely, to just “get rid of him.” This must be done without delay, she tells her parents. This flood of words comes pouring out of Grete; it is a spontaneous expression of her feelings. “He must go!” cries Grete. “That’s the only solution, Father!”

Struggling with another asthma attack, Mrs. Samsa starts coughing, while Mr. Samsa can only nod in agreement with Grete’s words.

Just as she is concluding her argument, Grete notices Gregor, and with some alarm, she points him out to her father, who quickly springs to his feet in a fit of anger and torment.

It is a little ironic that Grete, and not Mr. Samsa, should be the one to propose getting rid of Gregor, but it is Grete, and not her aging parents, who has the most to lose if they continue to accept the status quo at home. Grete has been the one who has witnessed Gregor’s metamorphosis up close; she was the one who fed him twice a day, cleaned up after him, and shouldered the responsibility of caring for him. Now she has no illusions about his recovery. She cannot, like her mother, pretend any longer that Gregor will one day return to his normal self, and like her father, who seems to have settled into complacency and apathy, she cannot afford to remain passive and indifferent.

Her demand that Gregor “must go” seems heartless and cruel, but it is Grete who has the clarity of vision to see what is happening to her family. She worries about her mother’s chronic asthma and is concerned about her father having to work, in his old age, as a bank messenger. More than that, she has her own life to think about now. She is growing older and will one day want to marry and raise a family. How can she ever receive young men in her apartment with that “creature” living in the next room? She is afraid of being consumed by Gregor’s life, and so it is she who steps forward and speaks the unspeakable, and says that one thing that no one else has the courage to say—that Gregor must go.

After Gregor is spotted by his sister, he tries to turn around and go back to his room, but his sudden movement startles his family. A short silence follows during which time the family calms down, and they watch Gregor from a safe distance in mournful silence. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa sit down heavily, as if life itself were crushing them with its cruel weight, while Grete looks on with great trepidation.

An eerie silence then sets in while Gregor crawls back to his room. No one speaks, no one stirs but Gregor, who is left entirely to himself. As he inches closer to the doorway of his room, he turns to see Grete, who has now risen to her feet. Gregor’s last glance before entering his room is of his mother, and then Grete slams the door to his room after him. Pulling the key out of the door lock, she turns to her parents and says, “At last!”

With Gregor locked away in his room, the stage is now set for the story’s denouement, or final resolution. Kafka carefully prepares Gregor’s last scene for us with beatific, almost operatic detail. It is a little like the chorale movement of an orchestral work, where time itself seems to stand still.

Once Gregor is back in his room, he discovers that he feels more relaxed than ever before. Although his tired body is pulsating with pain, he seems to pay less attention to it now, a sure sign that his death is near. Even the rotting apple lodged in his back hardly bothers him anymore. Thoughts of death, and the comfort it will bring to his family, comfort Gregor in his last hour.

Gregor’s thoughts turn to his family with increasing frequency during the night. His heart breaks and aches with love for them.

In a flash, he realizes that Grete is right about him, that if he is to spare them further pain and anguish, he must simply “disappear.” There is no other solution. With tender thoughts of his family in his head, Gregor dies just when the clock outside his window chimes three times. A great “broadening of light” enters his consciousness for the last time just before he expires.

The scene begins in darkness for Gregor and concludes with “the first broadening of light in the world outside his window” entering his consciousness. This suggests that Gregor’s journey on earth—from child, to student, to traveling salesman, to vermin—ends with Gregor’s recognition or knowledge that his self-sacrifice is the greatest gift he can make to his family. The three chimes of the tower clock suggest the Holy Trinity and Gregor’s salvation. While the entire death scene is “religious” in feeling, and while the religious symbolism may even suggest Gregor’s resurrection or metamorphosis into a higher form of life, the reader should consider the scene from another perspective.

Gregor’s death, like his life—like his metamorphosis—is dark and mysterious and inexplicable. Given his injured, weak constitution, we know that he could not have lasted much longer in his present state. Gregor wills himself to die. He makes the supreme sacrifice for his family, and in doing so, he has shed all mortal claims to his existence. The light that enters his consciousness is also the light that sets him free from his symbiotic relationship with his family. It allows him to slip away quietly from this earth, and his death is neither painful nor full of torment, but rather something quite peaceful and beautiful and graceful. Like Grete’s violin playing, which is his funeral dirge, the serenity of Gregor’s death scene, with his acceptance that his struggle is finally over, has its own moving music. He lies in a “state of vacant and peaceful meditation,” and his head sinks to the floor “of its own accord,” and then from his nostrils come “the last faint flicker of his breath.” These descriptions of Gregor’s final moments give the scene a roundness and finality, and they suggest that Gregor’s legacy—his self-sacrificing love—has meaning beyond his own mortal existence.

It is the old cleaning woman who discovers Gregor’s body the following morning. After she is convinced that Gregor is indeed dead and not just sleeping, she runs to the Samsa bedroom to announce the news. Mr. Samsa thanks God for ending his long, painful ordeal, while Grete says, “Just see how thin he was. It’s such a long time since he’s eaten anything.”

Grete follows her parents back into their bedroom after viewing Gregor’s corpse. The three lodgers come out of their room to look at Gregor’s body. Presently, the Samsas reenter the living room. Mr. Samsa is wearing his bank messenger’s uniform and comes out with Grete on one arm and his wife on his other. All appear to have been crying. Angrily, Mr. Samsa orders the three lodgers out of his house. The lodgers at first protest, but then they leave quietly.

The Samsas decide that it would be best if they took the day off from work and took a trip into the country. They all sit down and write letters to their employers explaining their intentions to take the day off to rest and to relax after their recent tragedy. As they are composing their letters, the cleaning lady reports to tell them that she has properly disposed of Gregor’s body and that they have nothing to worry about in that regard. She attempts to explain just how this was done, but Mr. Samsa interrupts her, preferring to be spared the grisly details. After the cleaning woman leaves for the day, Mr. Samsa announces that that very night, she will be told to leave for good. Mrs. Samsa and Grete, though, are not listening to him. The cleaning woman disturbed their calm, and they stand near the window, embracing and commiserating. Mr. Samsa says, “Let bygones be bygones. And you might have some consideration for me.” Ever the self-centered egotist, Mr. Samsa’s final words cut with a sharpness that is both icy and brutal, and remind us, in a cruel way, that life must go on.

While traveling to the country on the train, the Samsas take notice of their young daughter, and when the journey ends and Grete gets up out of her seat and stretches her “young body,” the Samsas can’t help but think that she is a very attractive young woman who is fast approaching the age of marriage. They fix all their hopes for the future on her. The reader is left wondering if, now that Gregor is gone, the Samsas will now try to exploit their pretty young daughter and try to find her a husband who will provide for them in their declining old age.

Throughout the story, the reader is plunged into a dark, strange world turned nightmare, where the details of everyday life are sharply contrasted with the fantastic, often grotesque metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa. The ever-shifting light in the story—from darkness to bright light—symbolizes the collision of these two worlds. With Gregor’s death, the darkness recedes, and the Samsa apartment is flooded with a new light, “the first broadening of light in the world.” It is also “the end of March” when Gregor dies, and there is a “certain softness” in “the air.” Kafka makes it clear with these details that spring is very close, and with spring comes renewal and rebirth.

Although The Metamorphosis ends with Gregor’s death, the theme of rebirth and regeneration is clearly apparent. From the family’s enormous trial and suffering comes the promise of a better life and a brighter future for all.

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Part 3, Division 1: Summary and Analysis