The Metamorphosis Summary and Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 34-page guide for “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 3 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Effects of Social Alienation and Work as a Dehumanizing Force.
First published in 1915, Franz Kafka’s surrealist novella The Metamorphosis, translated from Die Verwandlung, is widely acclaimed and one of the author’s best-known works. Kafka, a Jewish novelist and short-story writer, is regarded for his exploration of the fantastic. Kafka employs realism to depict his protagonists in bizarre circumstances. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka incorporates themes of alienation and absurdity to convey narratives about isolated and anxious protagonists.
The time period in which The Metamorphosis transpires is not explicitly denoted, but the reference to carriages indicates that the story takes place prior to the early 20th century. The entirety of the three-part narrative, excluding the final scene, takes place in the Samsa apartment, where Gregor lives with his parents and his 17-year-old sister, Grete. The limited third-person narration focuses on the thoughts and feelings of Gregor, a lonely travelling salesman.
When Gregor Samsa awakens one morning, he discovers that he has transformed into “a monstrous vermin” (3), which mostly likely refers to some kind of cockroach or giant beetle. Unable to get out of bed, reliable Gregor is late for work. His manager unexpectedly stops by the house, and Gregor, barely able to speak articulately, tries to keep both the manager and the Samsa family from entering his room. Once they discover what has become of him, the family, as well as the manager, are taken aback in fright. The manager hastily exits, and Mr. Samsa violently herds Gregor into his room.Isolated, Gregor’s thoughts are fixated on how he needs to continue working to provide for his family. Gregor’s overweight father rarely leaves the couch, and his kind mother and darling younger sister are also not employed.
Gregor overhears his family discussing their finances, and although he is still consumed with anxiety regarding their stability, he is momentarily relieved when he hears assurances that there is money left from Gregor’s prior employment. While the Samsa parents do not regard Gregor, Grete, with affection for her brother, brings Gregor scraps of food and is considerate of his needs. However, he hides himself from her presence when she is in his room. As he devolves and becomes more animal-like, she removes the bedroom furniture so that he may climb the walls. When Gregor exposes himself in an attempt to spare the painting in his room, his mother sees him and faints. Mr. Samsa returns from work, and his wife’s condition prompts him to throw apples at Gregor, physically injuring him once again.
When Gregor recovers a month later, he discovers that the state of the Samsa apartment has changed. His family has let the live-in maid go, in lieu of a brash, part-time cleaning woman, and all the members of his family are now gainfully employed. Now that Grete is busy working, she no longer cleans his living quarters or shows consideration toward Gregor. She hurls the food scraps into his room, which has now become unkempt and offensive, much like Gregor’s appearance. The burly new cleaning woman is indifferent to Gregor and refers to him as an “old dung beetle” (38). Neglected by his family, Gregor rarely eats. When his door is left ajar, Gregor notices that three lodgers have taken up residence in the apartment. Grete plays the violin for them, and Gregor is lured from his “filthy corner” (37). When he is seen, Gregor is covered in dust, debris, and food scraps, adding to his unsightliness. The lodgers threaten to leave and lock themselves in their rooms. Grete now refers to her former brother as “that monster” (43) and maintains that they should get rid of him, as she believes that he can’t understand what they’re saying. Devastated, Gregor returns to his room and dies of starvation.
The next morning, the cleaning woman finds his body. Upon the news of Gregor’s death, Mr. Samsa kicks out the lodgers. The cleaning woman disposes of Gregor’s body, and Mr. Samsa remarks that he will fire her later that evening. Happy for the freedom with which the absence of Gregor will afford them, Mr. Samsa exits the apartment with each of his ladies on his arm. As they discuss their “future prospects” (48), Mr. and Mrs. Samsa remark how Grete has become a woman and how it may be time for her to find a suitable husband.