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Free Study Guide-The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka-Online Book Summary
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The story opens with a startling revelation--Gregor has turned into a bug. Once that premise is established, the story is divided into three sections, each with its own rising action and mini-climax. In section one, Gregor is developed as a character. Kafka reveals his love for and dedication to his family; however, they do not seem to fully appreciate him, even though he is their sole breadwinner. He is also not appreciated at his company, where he works as a salesman in a job that he hates. When Gregor realizes his metamorphosis, he does not seem particularly horrified at his bug body; instead, he worries about not going to work and being able to support the family. When he is finally brave enough to present himself, he is sure that his parents and sister will react to him with understanding and patience; instead, he is greeted by his family with shock and horror and, ultimately, rejection. Mr. Samsa quickly gets Gregor back into his room by poking him with a walking stick. It is the beginning of his total alimentation from the family and humanity.

In section two, Gregor begins to adjust to his life as a bug, hiding in dark corners and climbing on the walls and ceilings to pass the time. He is almost completely transformed at the time when his mother tries to remove his furniture, giving him more space. He panics at the thought that his last bit of being human will depart with the furniture. Mrs. Samsa has never adjusted to the idea that her son is a bug.

When she actually sees him, it causes her to faint. When Mr. Samsa comes in and finds the house in an uproar, he blames Gregor and chunks apples at him for punishment. Gregor is again driven into the isolation of his room, this time with an apple lodged in his back; unfortunately, he cannot remove it since he does not have hands.


In section three, Gregor thinks he has gained some acceptance from the family because the door to his room is sometimes left open; the Samsas obviously feel bad that he has been injured, but they will not come close enough to him to remove the imbedded apple, which festers on his back. But because he can see and hear his parents and his sister, Gregor is fooled into thinking he belongs and is accepted by the family. When he hears Grete play her violin for the boarders, he almost forgets that he is a bug and goes out into the living room. Grete is shocked, horrified, and upset. She expresses her hatred for him and her desire that he would just go away. Crushed by her negative, almost violent, emotions, Gregor goes back into his room, feeling totally alienated from his family and humanity. The next day he dies.

Kafka has unified his story in several ways. Several metamorphoses occur in the novel, and they are all related and serve to unify the action. The most obvious metamorphosis is Gregor's change into an insect. But this physical change causes him to experience an emotional metamorphosis as well. Additionally, the entire family goes through a metamorphosis, learning how to support themselves since Gregor can no longer support them. Finally, Grete goes through a dramatic metamorphosis as she changes her attitude from kindness and acceptance to total revulsion.

The plot is also held together by the structure of the sections; each ends with a new, more serious, and dramatic tragedy for Gregor, and the repetition binds the action. The plot is also held together by time, place, and character. The entire story occurs over a few days time, and the entire action takes place in the Samsa household. There are also few characters, and all of the central ones belong to the same family. The plot is also unified by an irony that runs throughout the story; the more Gregor calms down and accepts his insect image, the more his family becomes repulsed by his presence.

Although the story of Gregor and his metamorphosis is bizarre, it is developed in a conventional manner. The story opens with an introduction, where each member of the Samsa family is presented and described. The rising action comes through Gregor's tragic experiences, developed and repeated within the three sections. The climax occurs when Grete expresses her hatred of her brother; learning of her animosity, Gregor realizes he has nothing to live for. The falling action reveals that Gregor dies and is swept out by the maid. His parents and sister feel only relief, no sorrow. The conclusion comes when the Samsas, no longer burdened by Gregor, plan and take a trip to the country, almost as if they have totally forgotten the giant bug.

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