The Metamorphosis Summary
by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis book cover
Start Your Free Trial

The Metamorphosis Summary

The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka about a man who inexplicably transforms into a giant insect. 

  • Traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover that he has transformed into a giant insect. His metamorphosis makes it impossible for him to work. 
  • When Gregor finally opens the door, his hideous figure frightens his family. 
  • Gregor's parents have trouble adjusting to his metamorphosis. One day, Gregor's father becomes so frustrated that he throws an apple at Gregor. The fruit becomes lodged in Gregor's back, where it rots and causes an infection that ultimately kills Gregor.

Download The Metamorphosis Study Guide

Subscribe Now


Summary of the Novel
Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, awakes one morning to find out that he has been transformed into a gigantic insect. From his bed, he looks around his room, adjusting physically and mentally to his new body and wondering if he hasn’t been dreaming. But when he tries to turn over onto his right side and can’t, he realizes that it is no dream, that indeed he is an insect, complete with a hard shell for a back, wriggling legs, and feelers.

He wants to go back to sleep, but he remembers that he has to get up for work and is already late. His thoughts turn to his job and to the work he does. He hates his job, and he dislikes the Chief of the company. Five years before, Gregor’s father’s business failed, and Gregor has been supporting his parents and his sister ever since. He has also been paying off his parents’ personal debts to the Chief, and he hopes one day to quit his job, settle his parents’ accounts, and send his sister to the Conservatory to study music.

While his parents are trying to find out why Gregor hasn’t come out of his room, the chief clerk arrives to inquire about Gregor’s lateness. When Gregor still doesn’t emerge from his room, his parents become worried and send Grete and Anna to get the doctor and locksmith, respectively. The chief clerk threatens Gregor with the loss of his job if he doesn’t come out and report for work. Gregor responds by saying that he hasn’t been feeling well, but promises to report for work anyway.

When Gregor finally unlocks the door to his room and shows his face, the chief clerk, who is the first to see him, reacts with shock and horror and retreats to the staircase. Mrs. Samsa collapses to the floor at the sight of her son, and Mr. Samsa breaks down and cries. The chief clerk meanwhile is on the landing and wants to flee. Gregor tries to speak to him in order to give him some explanation for what has happened to him, but the clerk flies out of the house. Gregor’s father picks up the chief clerk’s walking stick, which he left behind, and a rolled newspaper and drives Gregor back into his room. In his panic to escape his father, Gregor gets caught in the door of his room and sustains multiple injuries to himself. Shaken and bleeding, he lies dazed on the floor of his room.

When Part 2 opens, it is twilight of the same day, but we learn later that more time has really elapsed between the morning’s events and the time Gregor wakes up again in his room. Grete has taken on the responsibility of feeding Gregor and cleaning out his room, since her parents seem unwilling or unable to cope with the new crisis. The cook implores Mrs. Samsa to let her go. Mrs. Samsa has no choice but to dismiss her, and now Grete must help her mother with the cooking chores as well.

Gregor is able to listen in on his parents’ conversation, and he learns that the family has some money left over from his father’s investments to live on for about a year. Grete decides that it would be best if much of the furniture is removed from Gregor’s room to give him greater freedom of movement. To this end, she enlists her mother’s help and the two women start to take out the chest and the writing desk from Gregor’s room. When they come back for the picture on the wall, Gregor is clinging tenaciously to it, daring them to take it from him. When Mrs....

(The entire section is 2,585 words.)