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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Key Plot Points

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The Bank’s Attorney Attempts to Check on Gregor (Part 1): Though Gregor remains committed to his work and family, he cannot adequately communicate this in his new form. The bank’s attorney, or chief clerk, arrives to assess his condition but cannot reach Gregor through his locked bedroom door. Through interactions between Gregor’s family and his superior, the family’s reliance on Gregor’s income is revealed as are the overly oppressive conditions of company he works for, which won’t even allow one sick day without suspicion. Gregor’s single-minded commitment to his job is also reinforced to a hyperbolic, absurd degree—he doesn’t attempt to remedy or explain his situation, instead focusing only on keeping his job. 

Gregor’s Family Tries to Remove the Picture From His Room (Part 2): The idea of removing furniture and accoutrements from Gregor’s room comes from compassionate: Grete ascertains that objects only get in the way of Gregor when he climbs around his room as a form of amusement. However, Gregor views the removal of his furniture as a rejection of his humanity, and in his drive to protect the most precious object in the room— the picture of the woman in furs—he terrifies his mother and infuriates his sister, which results in further alienation. 

Gregor Is Wounded by His Father (Part 2): Gregor’s father asserts his dominance over and disgust with Gregor’s continued existence by pelting him with apples. This scene reveals that the father views Gregor as actively harmful and not just unpleasant to behold. Although Gregor is not killed, he is grievously wounded. As a result of this encounter, Gregor is allowed more visual contact with his family, but it is clear that his status as a family member is unstable. 

Gregor Listens to Grete’s Violin Playing (Part 3): Throughout the story, Grete has been the most sympathetic to Gregor’s condition. When Gregor hears Grete performing for the family’s lodgers—who quickly grow bored of the spectacle, which irks Gregor—he is reminded of his failure to provide for Grete’s education at a conservatory. He also questions his continued humanity, wondering if animals find pleasure in music the same way human beings do. Because of Gregor’s appearing in the room to listen to Grete, the lodgers leave, and Grete insists on getting rid of him—and so Gregor loses his ally and will to live. 

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History of the Text