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Free Study Guide-The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka-Online Book Summary
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SECTION 2

Notes

The second metamorphosis in the story takes place as Gregor's family begins to adjust to life after he has become a bug. Gregor notices lots of changes. His father no longer reads the afternoon paper; instead, he goes out and gets a job. Everyone seems to eat less; they seldom talk to one another; and the maid no longer comes, causing his mother and sister to do the housework and cooking. Amazingly, Gregor feels guilty that his family is having to work to survive. He is also amazed to learn that his father has had money in savings all along.

Gregor also notices a change in his sister, Grete. Before his metamorphosis, the two of them were wonderfully close, confiding everything in one another. He was even saving money out of his meager earnings in order to send her to a music conservatory to learn the violin. It is obvious that they have cared deeply for each other. When Gregor goes through his change, she initially seems to accept the metamorphosis and is wonderfully supportive and thoughtful of him. She is the one who makes sure that he has food and drink. She would also open the door slowly and carefully and tiptoe her way into his room in such a way to make sure she did not frighten him. Additionally, she would open the window for him so he could see out. But Gregor sadly and helplessly notices changes in her and can say nothing about them. He hates the fact that she now sneaks in and out of his room, terrified of spying his giant insect body.

After his mother faints at the sight of him, Gregor comes face to face with the real metamorphosis in his family--the one he has feared all along. He now feels totally cut off, fully alienated. Grete shows her open resentment and anger towards Gregor, addressing him for the first time since his transformation only as "You!" The look on her face expresses all of her unspoken horror. She even slams the door to his room in his face, locking him out. Grete wants to make sure she is physically isolated from her bug brother. Mr. Samsa is also determined to keep him isolated. When he comes in from work and finds the chaos that has occurred, Mr. Samsa immediately blames Gregor for the trouble and pelts him with apples, finally expressing his pent-up anger and wounding his son. It is appropriate that Gregor's father hits him with apples, the symbol of paradise lost in the Garden of Eden. It is also significant that Mrs. Samsa still cares enough for her son to make her husband cease the barrage of apples.


This section of the novel significantly develops Kafka's theme of man's isolation. Gregor is a man trapped in the body of a bug. Sometimes his thoughts are very human, such as when he feels regret and fear. Other times, his actions and desires are animalistic, such as when he takes to eating garbage and climbing the walls. The image of a human mind trapped in an insect's body, a creature who thinks like a man but acts like an insect, is pathetic and tragic; but it is a comment on Kafka's part about the sad state of mankind.

In spite of his tragic existence as an insect, unrealistic hope is expressed by and for Gregor. In the first section, Gregor dares to harbor the hope of regaining human form and catching the next train to work. In this section, his mother asks Grete not to take the furniture out of Gregor's room in case he becomes human again. Gregor, however, seems to be losing some of his hope. At first he is content to let the women remove the furniture, for it is of no use to him in his present form and will allow him more room to act like an insect. He then realizes, however, that if the furniture is gone, he will have lost his last traces of human existence, and he dares to hope that Grete will follow his mother's advice and leave the furniture in place. He also dares to hope that they will leave the picture of his dream woman in her furs hanging on his wall.

The last thing to note about the second section is the metamorphosis of time. In the first section, Gregor was precise and realistic about time, noting exact minutes. In this section, however, days pass, even months, without Gregor noticing. He has even lost all sense of morning and night, for the difference is not important to him as an insect. He can sleep off and on whenever he wants. If his furniture is removed, Gregor will become even more disoriented, for he will have no relationship to his past; his humanity will have been totally stripped from him. And in fact, he is acting less human and more insect-like with each passing day. He now eats very little, crawls all over the walls and ceiling to entertain himself, and lurks in dark corners.

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