Chapter I

The Metamorphosis

AS GREGOR SAMSA awoke one morning out of restless dreams, he found himself in bed, transformed into a gargantuan pest. He lay on his hard, armored back and saw, as he raised his head a little, his domed, brown belly, divided into arched segments; he could hardly keep the bed sheets from sliding from his stomach's height completely to the floor. His numerous legs, lamentably thin in comparison to his new girth, flickered helplessly before his eyes.

“What has happened to me?” he thought. It was no dream. His room, a proper room for a human being (albeit a little too small), lay still between the four familiar walls. Above the table, upon which a collection of sample cloth goods was spread out in stacks—Samsa was a traveling salesman—hung the picture which he had cut out of an illustrated magazine a little while ago and set in a pretty gilt frame. It depicted a woman who, with a fur hat and a fur boa, sat erect, lifting up in the direction of the viewer a solid fur muff into which her entire forearm had disappeared.

Gregor's glance then turned to the window, and the dreary weather—one heard raindrops falling upon the window ledge—made him quite melancholy. “How would it be if I kept sleeping for a little while longer and forgot all this foolishness,” he thought; but this was entirely impractical, for he was accustomed to sleeping on his right side, and in his present circumstances, he couldn't bring himself into this position. No matter how hard he threw himself onto his right side, he always rolled again into a prone position. He tried it a full hundred times, closing his eyes because he had to avoid seeing the wriggling legs, and gave up trying when he began to feel a slight, dull pain in his side that he had hitherto not felt.

“Oh God,” he thought, “what a strenuous occupation I've chosen! Always on the road, day out, day in. The rigors of the job are much greater than if I were working locally, and, furthermore, the nuisances of traveling are always imposed upon me—the worries about train connections, bad meals at irregular intervals, fleeting human contact that is ever-changing, never lasting, and never expected to be genuine. To the devil with it all!” He felt a slight itching on the top of his abdomen. He slowly pushed himself on his back closer to the bedpost so that he could lift his head more easily, found the itchy area, which was entirely covered with small white spots—he did not know what to make of them—and wanted to feel the place with a leg. But he retracted it immediately, for the contact felt like a cold shower all over him.

He slid back again into his earlier position. “This getting up early,” he thought, “makes one completely idiotic. A man must have his sleep. Other travelers live like harem women. For instance, when I come back to the inn during the course of the morning to write up the necessary orders, these gentlemen are just sitting down to breakfast. If I were to try that with my boss, I'd be thrown out on the spot.

“Who knows, though—that might not be such a bad thing. If I didn't hold back for my parents' sake, I'd have quit ages ago. I would go to the boss and state my opinion out loud from the bottom of my heart. He would've fallen right off his desk! He's a strange sort, sitting up on that desk and speaking down to the employee from on high like that. Moreover, the boss has trouble hearing, and one has to step up close to him. At any rate, hope is not completely gone: once I've collected the money to pay off my parents' debt to him—that should take another five or six years—I'll do it for sure. I'll cut all ties and move on. In any case, right now I have to get up; my train leaves at five.”

He saw the alarm clock over there, ticking on the chest of drawers. “Good God!” he thought. It was half past six, and the hands were going quietly on. It was past the half hour, almost quarter to seven. Shouldn't the alarm have sounded? One could see from the bed that it had been properly set for four o'clock. Certainly it had rung. And was it even possible for one to sleep quietly through the noise that made even the furniture shake? Now, he certainly hadn't had a peaceful sleep, but apparently it was deep nonetheless. But what should he do now? The next train left at seven o'clock. To catch that one, he would have to make a mad dash; his assortment of wares wasn't packed up yet, and he really didn't feel particularly fresh and active. And even if he caught the train, there was no way to avoid those storm clouds brewing over the boss' head, because the firm's errand boy would've waited for the five o'clock train and reported the news of his absence long ago. He was the boss's minion, without backbone or intelligence. Well then, what if he called in sick? But that would be extremely embarrassing and suspicious, because during his five years' service Gregor hadn't been sick even once. The boss would certainly come with the doctor from the health insurance company and would reproach his parents for their lazy son, cutting short all objections with the comments from the insurance doctor, who thought everyone was completely healthy but work-shy. And besides, would the doctor in this case be totally wrong? Apart from an excessive drowsiness after the long sleep, Gregor, in fact, felt quite well and even had an especially strong appetite. As he was thinking all this over in the greatest haste, without being able to make the decision to get out of bed (the clock struck quarter to seven), there was a cautious knock on the door near the head of the bed. “Gregor,” a voice called—it was mother. “It's quarter to seven. Don't you want to be on your way?” The soft voice! Gregor was startled when he heard his voice answering. It was clearly and unmistakably his earlier voice, but in it was intermingled, as if from below, an irrepressibly painful squeaking, which left the words positively distinct only in the first moment and distorted them in the next moment, so that one didn't know if one had heard correctly. Gregor wanted to answer in detail and explain everything, but in these circumstances he confined himself to saying, “Yes, yes, thank you mother. I'm getting up right away.” Because of the wooden door, the change in Gregor's voice was not really noticeable outside, so his mother calmed down with this explanation and shuffled off. However, as a result of the short conversation, the other family members became aware that Gregor was unexpectedly still at home, and already his father was knocking on one side door, weakly but with his fist. “Gregor, Gregor,” he called out. “What's going on?” And, after a short while, he urged him on again in a deeper voice: “Gregor! Gregor!” At the other side door, however, his sister knocked lightly. “Gregor? Are you not well? Do you need anything?” Gregor directed answers at both sides: “I'm almost done.” He made an effort with the most careful articulation and by inserting long pauses between the individual words to remove everything remarkable from his voice. Father turned back to his breakfast. However, the sister whispered, “Gregor, open the door—I beg you.” Gregor had no intention of opening the door, but congratulated himself on his precaution, acquired from traveling, of locking all doors during the night, even at home.

First, he wanted to get out of bed quietly and without disturbance, get dressed, above all to have breakfast, and only then consider further action, for—he noticed this clearly—by thinking things over in bed he would not reach any sensible conclusions. He already remembered that he had often felt a light pain in bed, perhaps the result of some awkward sleeping position, which later turned out to be purely imaginary when he stood up, and he was eager to see how his present fantasies would gradually fade away. That the change in his voice was nothing other than the onset of a real chill, an occupational illness of commercial travelers—of that he had not the slightest doubt.

It was very easy to throw aside the blanket; he needed only to push himself up a little, and it fell by itself. But to continue was difficult, particularly because he was so unusually wide. He needed arms and hands to push himself upright. In the place of these, however, he had only a lot of little legs, which were incessant in their various motions and which, moreover, he was unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, then it was the first to stretch itself out, and meanwhile, if he finally succeeded in doing what he wanted with this limb, all the others, as if left free, moved around in an excessively painful agitation. “But I must not stay in bed uselessly,” said Gregor to himself.

At first he wanted to get out of bed with the lower part of his body, but this lower part—which, by the way, he had not yet looked at and which he also couldn't clearly imagine—proved itself too difficult to move. The attempt went so slowly. When, having become almost frantic, he finally hurled himself forward with all his force and without thinking, he chose his direction incorrectly, and he hit the lower bedpost hard. The burning pain he felt taught him that the lower part of his body was, at the moment, perhaps the most sensitive.

Thus, he tried to get his upper body out of the bed first and turned his head carefully toward the edge of the bed. He managed to do this easily, and in spite of its width and weight, his body mass at last slowly followed the turning of his head. But as he finally raised his head outside the bed in the open air, he became anxious about moving forward any further in this manner, for if he allowed himself eventually to fall by this process, it would take a miracle to prevent his head from getting injured. And, at all costs, he must not lose consciousness right now; he would prefer to remain in bed.

However, after a similar effort whereby he brought himself with a deep sigh back into his prone position and once again saw his little legs fighting one another with even more fury than before, if such a thing were possible, and didn't see any chance of bringing peace and order to this arbitrary movement, he told himself again that he couldn't possibly remain in bed and that it might be the most reasonable thing to sacrifice everything if there were even the slightest hope of freeing himself from bed in the process. At the same moment, however, he didn't forget now and then to remember that the calm and calmest contemplation would be much better than desperate conclusions. At such moments, he directed his gaze as precisely as he could toward the window, but unfortunately there was little confidence or encouragement to be had from a glance at the morning mist, which concealed even the other side of the narrow street. “Already seven o'clock,” he told himself at the latest striking of the alarm clock, “already seven o'clock and still such a fog.” And, for a little while longer, he lay quietly, breathing weakly, as if waiting, perhaps, for his real and natural proportions to return out of the complete stillness.

But then he said to himself: “Prior to it striking quarter past seven, I must by all means abandon this bed completely. Besides, by then, someone from the office will arrive to inquire about me, because the office will open before seven o'clock.” And he made an effort then to rock the entire length of his body out of the bed with a uniform motion. If he let himself fall out of the bed in this way, his head, which in the course of the fall he intended to lift up sharply, would in all likelihood remain uninjured. His back seemed to be hard; nothing would really happen to that as a result of the fall on the carpet. His greatest reservation was a worry about the loud crash that the fall must cause and which presumably would cause fright, or at the very least concern, on the other side of the doors. It had to be risked, though.

When Gregor was already sticking out halfway off the bed—the new method was more of a game than a strain since he needed only to rock consistently with a jerking motion—it struck him how easy all this would be if someone were to come to his aid. Two strong people—he thought of his father and the maid—would have been entirely sufficient. They would only have had to slide their arms under his dome-like back in order to pry him out of bed, to bend down with their load, and then merely to exercise patience and care so that he completely swung over onto the floor, where hopefully his little legs would acquire some sense. Now, quite apart from the fact that the doors were locked, should he really call out for help? In spite of all his distress, he was unable to suppress a smile at this idea.

Because he was rocking so strongly, he was already at the point where he could hardly maintain his balance, and very soon he would have to definitively choose, for in five minutes it would be quarter past seven—and there was a ring at the door of the apartment. “That's someone from the office,” he told himself, and he was almost paralyzed because his small legs only danced around all the faster. For one moment, everything remained still. “They aren't opening it,” Gregor said to himself, biased in favor of this idea by some absurd hope. But, naturally, the maid's firm steps went as they always did and opened the door. Gregor needed to hear only the first word of the visitor's greeting to recognize immediately who it was—the firm's attorney himself. Why was Gregor the only one condemned to work in a firm where, at the slightest lapse, someone immediately attracted the greatest suspicion? Were all the employees then collectively, one and all, scoundrels; was there among them then not one truly devoted person who, failing to take advantage of the morning hours for work, would go mad because of pangs of conscience and would, therefore, not be fit to leave bed? Was it truly insufficient to have an apprentice inquire—if such interrogation were even necessary; did the attorney need to come himself, and through his coming, did the entire innocent family need to be shown that the investigation of this suspicious affair could be entrusted only to the attorney's understanding? And, more as a consequence of the excited state in which this idea put Gregor than as a result of an actual decision, he swung himself with all his might out of the bed. There was a loud thud, but it was not really a crash. The fall was absorbed somewhat by the carpet and, in addition, his back was more elastic than Gregor had thought, and for this reason the dull noise was not conspicuous at all. But he had not held his head up with sufficient care and had hit it; because of the pain and irritation, he turned his head and rubbed it on the carpet.

“Something has fallen in there,” said the attorney in the next room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine to himself whether anything similar to what was happening to him today could have also happened at some point to the attorney; at the very least, one had to concede the possibility of such a thing. However, as if to give a rough answer to this question, the attorney now, allowing his polished shoes to creak, took a few determined steps in the next room. From the neighboring room on the right the sister was whispering to inform Gregor: “Gregor, the attorney is here.” “I know,” said Gregor to himself; but he did not dare raise his voice loud enough so that his sister could hear.

“Gregor,” his father now said from the neighboring room on the left, “the head attorney has come and is asking why you did not leave on the early train. We don't know what we should tell him. Besides, he also wants to speak to you personally. So please open the door. He will certainly be good enough to forgive the mess in your room.”

In the middle of all this, the attorney called out in a friendly way, “Good morning, Mr. Samsa.” “He is not well,” said his mother to the attorney, while his father was still talking at the door. “He is not well, sir, believe me, good attorney. Otherwise, how would Gregor miss a train! The boy has nothing in his head except business. I'm almost angry that he never goes out at night; right now he's been in the city eight days, but he's been at home every evening. He sits here with us at the table and quietly reads the newspaper or studies his travel schedules. Doing fretsaw work is also quite a diversion for him. For instance, he cut out a small frame over the course of two or three evenings; you'd be amazed how pretty it is—it's hanging right inside the room—you'll see it immediately, as soon as Gregor opens the door. Anyway, I'm happy that you're here, good attorney; by ourselves, we wouldn't have brought Gregor to the point of opening the door; he's so stubborn, and he's certainly not well, although he denied that this morning.”

“I'm coming right away,” said Gregor slowly and deliberately; he didn't move, so as not to lose one word of the conversation. “My dear lady, I cannot explain it to myself in any other way,” said the attorney. “I hope it is nothing serious. On the other hand, I must also say that we business people—for better or worse, however one looks at it—very often simply have to overcome a minor infirmity for business concerns.” “So can the good attorney come in to see you now?” asked the impatient father as he knocked once again on the door. “No,” said Gregor. In the adjacent room on the left, an embarrassing stillness set in; in the adjacent room on the right, the sister began to sob.

Why didn't the sister go to the others? She'd probably just gotten up out of bed and hadn't even started to get dressed yet. Then why was she crying? Because he wasn't getting up and wasn't letting the attorney in, because he was in danger of losing his position, and because then his boss would badger his parents once again with the old demands? At this point, those worries were completely unnecessary. Gregor was still here and wasn't thinking at all about deserting his family. At the moment, he was lying right there on the carpet, and no one who knew about his condition would've seriously requested that he let the attorney in. But because of this minor rudeness, for which he would easily find a suitable excuse later, Gregor could not be immediately dismissed. It seemed to Gregor that it might be far more reasonable to leave him in peace at the moment instead of disturbing him with crying and persuasion. But it was that very uncertainty that distressed the others and excused their behavior.

“Mr. Samsa,” called out the attorney with a raised voice, “what's the matter? You are barricading yourself in your room, answering with a mere yes or no, making serious and unnecessary troubles for your parents, and neglecting (I mention this only incidentally) your commercial duties in a truly unheard-of manner. I am speaking here in the name of your parents and your supervisors, and I am asking you earnestly for an immediate, clear explanation. I am amazed; I am amazed. I thought I knew you as a calm, reasonable person, and now you appear suddenly to want to start parading about with peculiar moods. The supervisor mentioned to me earlier this very day a possible explanation for your neglect—it concerned the collection of cash entrusted to you a short while ago—but, in truth, I gave him my word of honor that this explanation could not be correct. However, now I see here your unfathomable stubbornness, and I am completely losing any desire to stick out my neck for you at all. And your position is certainly not the most secure one. I originally had the intention of keeping all of this between the two of us, but since you are letting me waste my time here uselessly, I don't know why your parents shouldn't also learn about it. Your performance has also been quite unsatisfactory of late; it's hardly the time of year for making exceptional sales, we acknowledge that, but there is no such thing at all as a time of year for making no sales, Mr. Samsa; such a thing will not be permitted.”

“But attorney, sir,” called Gregor, beside himself and, in his agitation, forgetting everything else, “I'm opening the door immediately, this very moment. A slight indisposition, a dizzy spell, has prevented me from getting up. I'm still lying in bed right now. But I'm already quite refreshed again. I'm climbing out of bed this instant. Just a short moment of patience! Things are not going as well as I thought. But I'm still well. How suddenly this can overcome a person! Only yesterday evening everything was fine with me, my parents certainly know that; actually just yesterday evening, I had a slight premonition. People must have seen that in me. Indeed, why didn't I report that to the office! But people always think that they'll get over sickness without having to stay at home. My dear sir, attorney! Spare my parents! There is really no basis for the accusations which you are now leveling against me, and until now, nobody has mentioned a word of this to me. Perhaps you have not read the latest orders which I shipped. Moreover, now I'm setting out on my trip on the eight o'clock train; the few hours of rest have strengthened me. Attorney, sir, don't tarry; I will be at the office in person right away; please have the kindness to say that and to give my regards to the supervisor!”

While Gregor was quickly blurting all this out, hardly aware of what he was saying, he had moved close to the chest of drawers without effort, probably as a result of the practice he had already had in bed, and now he was trying to stand up straight using it. He actually wanted to open the door. He really wanted to let himself be seen by and to speak with the attorney. He was eager to see what the others, who were making such demands of him, would say once they caught a glimpse of him. If they were startled, then Gregor had no more responsibility and could be calm. But if they took in everything quietly, then he would have no reason to get excited and could, if he hurried, actually be at the train station around eight o'clock. At first he slid down a few times on the smooth chest of drawers, but eventually, he gave himself a final swing and stood upright there; he paid no more heed to the pains in his lower body, no matter how they might still sting. Now he let himself fall against the back of a nearby chair, on the edge of which he braced himself with his thin limbs. By doing this, he gained control over himself and kept quiet, for he could now hear the attorney.

“Did you understand even a single word?” the attorney asked the parents. “Is he making a fool of us?” “For God's sake,” cried the mother, already in tears. “Perhaps he's very ill, and we're upsetting him. Grete! Grete!” she then cried out. “Mother?” called the sister from the other side. They were communicating through Gregor's room. “You must go to the doctor immediately. Gregor is sick. Hurry to the doctor. Have you heard Gregor speak yet?” “That was an animal's voice,” said the attorney with a voice that was remarkably quiet in comparison to the mother's screaming. “Anna! Anna!” yelled the father through the hall into the kitchen, clapping his hands. “Fetch a locksmith right away!” The two young women ran immediately through the hall with swishing skirts—how had his sister dressed herself so quickly?—and tore open the front door. No one heard the front door close at all; it was left wide open, as is customary in apartments where a huge tragedy has occurred.

Gregor, however, had become much calmer. All right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than before, perhaps because his ears had become accustomed to them. But at least people now thought that things were not well with him and were prepared to help him. The confidence and assurance with which the first arrangements had been carried out made him feel good. He felt himself included once again in the circle of humanity and was expecting from them both, from the doctor and from the locksmith, without exactly differentiating between them, splendid and surprising results. In order to get as clear a voice as possible for the decisive discussion to come, he coughed a little, and yet he took pains to ensure that this was muted, since it was possible that even this noise sounded like something different from a human cough, and he no longer trusted himself to discern whether it was or not. Meanwhile, in the next room, it had become completely quiet. Perhaps his parents were sitting with the attorney at the table whispering about him; perhaps they were all leaning against the door, eavesdropping.

Gregor pushed himself slowly towards the door with the help of the chair, let go of it there, threw himself against the door, held himself upright against it—the balls of his tiny legs had a little adhesive on them—and took a brief respite from his labors. But then he took it upon himself to rotate the key in the lock with his mouth. Unfortunately it seemed that he had no real teeth—with what then was he to grab hold of the key? But for this, of course, his jaws were very strong; with their help, he really brought the key into motion, and didn't quite pay attention to the fact that he was undoubtedly causing some harm to himself, because a brown liquid came out of his mouth, flowed over the key, and dripped onto the floor.

“Just listen,” said the attorney in the adjacent room; “he's turning the key.” This really cheered Gregor up, but they all should have called out to him, including his father and mother; they should have shouted, “Come on, Gregor, get right near it; hold fast to that lock!” Imagining that all his efforts were being followed with suspense, he focused, with all the determination and strength he could summon, on the lock. After each progression of the key's rotation, he danced about the lock; he held himself upright now only with his mouth, and he had to hang onto the key or, as necessary, to press it down once more with the whole weight of his body. The clear noise of the bolt as it finally snapped back positively woke Gregor up. Out of breath, he said to himself: “So I didn't need the locksmith,” and he set his head against the door handle to open the door completely.

The door had already been opened wide without him yet being completely visible, seeing that he had had to open it in this way. He first had to turn himself slowly around the edge of the door, very carefully, of course, if he didn't want to fall clumsily on his back right at the entrance into the room. He was still preoccupied with this difficult movement and had no time to pay attention to anything else when he heard the attorney shout out a loud “Oh!”—it sounded like the wind whistling—and now he saw him, the nearest one to the door, pressing his hand against his open mouth and retreating slowly, as if pushed back by an invisible, constant, inexorable force. The mother—she stood here, in spite of the presence of the attorney, with her hair standing on end all over the place from the night—was looking at the father with her hands clasped. She then took two steps towards Gregor and collapsed right in the middle of her skirts, which were spread out all around her; her face was sunk on her breast, completely concealed. The father clenched his fist, showing a hostile expression, as if he wanted to push Gregor back into his room, then looked uncertainly around the living room, covered his eyes with his hands, and cried so that his mighty breast shook.

At this point, Gregor did not take one step into the room, but leaned his body from the inside against the firmly bolted door, so that only half his body was visible, as well as his head, tilted sideways, with which he peeped over at the others. Meanwhile it had become much brighter; standing out clearly from the other side of the street was a part of the endless, gray-black house situated opposite—it was a hospital—with its severe windows regularly spaced across the front; the rain was still coming down, but only in large, individual drops visibly and firmly thrown down one by one onto the ground. The breakfast dishes were sitting in abundant quantities on the table because the father held breakfast to be the most important meal of the day and let it drag on for hours by reading different newspapers. On the wall directly opposite hung a photograph of Gregor from the time of his military service, depicting him as a lieutenant, as if he, with his hand on his fencing sword, smiling and worry free, demanded respect for his bearing and uniform. The door to the hall was ajar, and since the door to the apartment was also open, one could see the apartment's landing and the first steps of the staircase leading down beyond.

“Now,” said Gregor, well aware that he was the only one who had kept any composure, “I'll promptly get dressed, pack up the collection of samples, and set off. You all want, you all want to allow me to go on my way? You see now, Attorney, sir, I am not stubborn, and I am happy to work; traveling is arduous, but without traveling, I couldn't live. Where are you going, my dear Attorney? To the office? Really? Will you report everything truthfully? A person can be incapable of work momentarily, but that's precisely the time one should remember and consider earlier achievements, so that, after the obstacles have been removed, the person will work that much more industriously. I am completely indebted to the supervisor, and this you know full well. On the other hand, I have to provide for my parents and the sister. I'm in a fix, but I'll work myself out of it again. Don't make things more difficult for me than they already are. Be my advocate in the office! People don't like traveling salesmen, I know. People think you can have a good life only by earning a bundle of money. People don't even have any good reason to stop and think over this prejudice. But you, my dear attorney, you have a better perspective on the circumstances of various people, even, I tell you in total confidence, a better perspective than the supervisor himself, who in his capacity as the employer is hardly bothered when he makes decisions that disadvantage his employees. You also know well enough that the traveling salesman who is away from the office almost the entire year can so easily become a victim of rampant gossip, coincidences, and groundless complaints, against which it's impossible for him to defend himself and most of which he doesn't experience first-hand; and he finds this all out only when he's exhausted after finishing a trip, at home where terrible consequences of unknown origin begin to make themselves felt in his body. Attorney, sir, don't go away without saying one word to me indicating that you think I'm at least partially right!”

But at Gregor's first words, the attorney had already turned away, and now he only looked back at Gregor, pursed his lips and shrugged his shoulders. During Gregor's speech, he was not still for a moment, but kept inching his way towards the door without taking his eyes off Gregor, very gradually, as if there existed some secret ban on leaving the room. He was already in the hall, and given the sudden movement with which he pulled his last foot out of the living room, one could have believed that he had just burned his soles. In the hall, however, he stretched his right hand out away from his body towards the stairs outside, as if a heavenly deliverance were waiting for him there.

Gregor realized that he must not, under any circumstances, allow the attorney to go away with this opinion, especially if his position in the company were not to be placed in the greatest danger. His parents didn't understand this well at all; over the long years, they had built up the conviction that he would be employed for life by this company, and, in addition, they had so much to do nowadays with their present troubles that they had lost all foresight. But Gregor had this foresight. The attorney must be stopped, calmed down, convinced, and finally won over; the future of Gregor and his family depended on it! If only sister had been there! She was clever; she had already cried while Gregor was still lying quietly on his back. And the attorney, this ladies' man, would certainly be tractable for her; she'd have shut the door of the apartment and talked him out of his terror. But the sister wasn't even there; Gregor had to handle it himself. And without considering that he, as of yet, didn't know his current perambulatory abilities, and without thinking that his speech possibly—nay, probably—would still not be understood, he left the door and pushed himself through the opening He wanted to go over to the attorney, who was holding on with both hands to the banister in the forecourt in a completely laughable fashion, but immediately fell, looked for something to stop the fall, and with a weak cry came down upon his many little legs. This had scarcely happened when he felt a sense of physical well-being for the first time that morning; the diminutive legs had a solid floor beneath them; they obeyed perfectly, he noticed to his joy, and even strove to carry him forward where he wanted; he already believed that the immediate alleviation of all his hardships was unequivocally before him. But at the very moment when he lay on the floor, rocking back and forth with a repressed motion, quite close and directly across from his mother, she, who appeared so totally lost in her own thoughts, all of a sudden shot up with her arms spread wide and her fingers extended and cried out, “Help, for God's sake, help!” She held her head bowed down, as if she wanted to view Gregor better, and yet in spite of this, she senselessly ran backwards, forgetting that behind her stood the table with all the dishes on it; arriving at the table, she (as if she were absent-minded) sat down hurriedly on it and hardly appeared to notice that near her a stream of coffee was pouring forth onto the carpet from the large, toppled pot.

“Mother, mother,” said Gregor quietly, and looked over towards her. The attorney fled momentarily from his mind; on the other hand, he could not keep himself from repeatedly snapping his jaws in the air at the sight of the flowing coffee. At that his mother began her screaming all over again, fled from the table, and collapsed into the arms of his father, who was hurrying towards her. But Gregor had no time right now for his parents; the attorney was already on the stairs; his chin level with the banister, the attorney looked back for the last time. Gregor began sprinting to ensure that he caught up with him as soon as possible; the attorney must have suspected something, because he leapt down multiple steps and disappeared. “Humph!” he then cried, and it rang throughout the entire stairwell.

Unfortunately, it appeared that the attorney's flight had completely bewildered father, who, up to this point, had been relatively composed; instead of running after the attorney or, at the very least, not hindering Gregor in his pursuit, he gripped the attorney's cane, which he had left behind on a stool with his hat and pullover, and with his left hand picked up a large newspaper from the table and attempted to drive Gregor back into his room by stamping his feet and swinging the cane and newspaper. None of Gregor's pleas helped, and no plea was understood; no matter how humbly he hung his head, the father stamped more violently. On the other side of the room, mother had, in spite of the cold weather, thrown open a window, and, leaning out, she put her hands on her face and thrust it far out of the window. A strong draft arose from between the alley and the stairwell; the curtains flew up and the newspapers on the table rustled as individual pages drifted down to the floor.

The father pushed relentlessly forward, hissing like a wild savage. Now Gregor as of yet had hardly any practice going backwards—it really went very slowly. If Gregor had only been allowed to turn around, he would have been in his room immediately, but he feared that father would become impatient with the time-consuming process of turning around, and at every moment, a lethal blow from the cane in the father's hand threatened Gregor's head or back. Eventually, there was really nothing else left for Gregor to do because he realized with horror that he no longer understood how to maintain a direction while going backwards. So he began, while incessantly casting anxious sideways glances at the father, he began to turn himself around as quickly as possible (although in reality, however, this was quite slow). Perhaps father noticed his good intentions, because he did not disturb him as he did this, instead conducting Gregor's rotation here and there from afar with the tip of his stick. If only father weren't making that unbearable hissing noise! Gregor was going out of his mind because of this. He was ever at the point of being almost completely turned around, when, because of this hissing, he erred and turned back a bit. When he was finally lucky enough to get his head before the doorway, it became apparent that his body was too wide to go through any further.

It naturally didn't occur to the father, in his present state of mind, to open the second of the two doors, for instance, in order to create a passage of sufficient width for Gregor to go through. He was obsessed with the idea of getting Gregor into his room as quickly as possible. Never would he have stood for the elaborate preparations that Gregor needed to get himself straight and, in this way, to go through the door. Rather, as if there were no obstacles in the way, he drove Gregor forward with an exceptional noise; it hardly sounded to Gregor as if there were one single father behind him—this was really no fun now, and Gregor, come what may, forced himself in the door. He raised the one side of his body, and lay on a slant in the doorway; his one flank was rubbed raw, ugly blotches were left on the white door, and soon he was stuck fast, since on his own, he couldn't stir because the little legs on one side were twitching up in the air and, on the other side, were painfully pressed to the floor—then the father came from behind and gave him a truly liberating and hefty push, and he flew, heavily bleeding, far into his room. The door was slammed shut with the cane. It was finally silent.


Chapter II