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Free Study Guide-The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka-Online Book Summary
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SECTION SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

SECTION 1

Summary

The first section opens as the protagonist of the story, Gregor Samsa, wakes up and finds he has turned into a giant bug. He lies in bed examining his new body with detached interest, as if he were dreaming. He has a hard shell, a segmented abdomen, and several tiny legs waving in all directions. He cannot roll over and go back to sleep, because the shell keeps him from being able to turn. Appropriate to the mood, it is raining outside.

In his confusion, Gregor wonders if he is perhaps still asleep; but when he recognizes the four familiar walls of his bedroom, he realizes he is quite awake. His first thoughts are about his job; he is a commercial salesman who travels extensively. The job is impersonal, and he spends much of his time on the road looking for a hotel room, catching the right trains, and meeting casual acquaintances who never become real friends. He has held the job for five years without missing a day. He looks at his wall clock, knowing he is already late. Even if he makes the 6:30 train, he will still have trouble. The porter will report Gregor's tardiness to the boss, and his boss in turn will reprimand Gregor. He feels he cannot call in sick. Even when other employees are truly ill, the doctor at work says they are just lazy. And the fact of the matter is that Gregor is not ill; he is an insect. He feels certain the doctor will not understand or support him about his absence or tardiness. At this thought, Gregor feels a bit of a panic, for his entire family depends on him to work and earn money; he is the sole breadwinner for the Samsas'. Frustrated and frightened, Gregor does not know what to do.

Gregor's mother taps on his door. He calls out to tell her he is getting up, but his voice sounds strange to his ears. She seems satisfied, though, and goes away. Moments later, when his father and sister learn that he is still at home, they call out to him as well. It is most unusual for Gregor to stay in bed, but he has been too shocked to move. At least he is thankful that he locked the door the night before; that should buy him some time to try and get out of bed and get dressed. As he tries to move, his waving legs seem to go in all directions, and he does not know how to control them. His efforts are interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. He soon realizes, with considerable irritation, that it is the chief clerk from his office. Gregor makes a heroic attempt to get out of bed and falls to the floor with a crash.


At this point, Gregor's mother is worried, his sister is near tears, and his father seems mildly annoyed. The chief clerk is belligerent, making suggestions that Gregor has stolen money from the firm and is staying home to hide the fact. These insinuations anger Gregor, who tries with renewed effort to talk to the people on the other side of the door. His words are totally incomprehensible to them, however, and they panic. Grete, his sister, is sent out to bring the doctor and a locksmith. His mother is sure that Gregor is really ill. The chief clerk goes on making nasty suggestions about Gregor's work performance and questionable honesty.

Gregor has heard enough. He decides to emerge from his room, revealing the metamorphosis he has experienced. Unfortunately, he cannot turn the door lock, for he has no hands, and his body is of little use, since he has difficulty controlling it. As he works at unlocking the door, he thinks to himself that the doctor and locksmith will perform miracles on him and restore him to his old self. With these optimistic thoughts, Gregor finally succeeds in opening the door.

Gregor's appearance is shocking. His mother faints, and his father is at first rendered speechless. The chief clerk is horrified and tries to escape. Gregor tries unsuccessfully to stop him so that he can explain and beg for understanding. Watching the insect, his son, Gregor's father is furious; he hisses and pokes at him with a walking stick, driving him back into his room. In the process, Gregor is injured by his father, both mentally and physically. Feeling unwanted, the new Gregor finally manages to maneuver his awkward bug body back into his own room. The door is shut firmly behind him, and the Samsa household grows silent.

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