As Gregor Samsa wakes up one day, having turned into a giant vermin, the story starts. In this IvyPanda article, you’ll see how The Metamorphosis started and progressed throughout the first chapter. Besides, you’ll find the analysis of this part.
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🛌 The Metamorphosis Chapter I Summary
The Metamorphosis chapter I opens in the house of the Samsa family. The main character, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, awakens one day to discover that he transformed into a grotesque insect-like creature. As he is lying on his shielded back, “his numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.”
While stuck in this unpleasant position, he thinks about his hard life. Due to constant traveling, he had to give up good meals and personal relationships. His strict boss is not the man to be reasoned with, and Gregor would have “given notice long ago” if he did not have to provide for his family.
While contemplating his unfortunate situation, Gregor realizes that he’s missed his morning train to work. At first, he is troubled by his bosses’ expected reaction and possible repercussions, as he has never missed a day during the five years of his work. Nevertheless, Gregor decides to call in a sick day as “he himself wasn’t feeling particularly fresh and active” today and “was even unusually hungry.”
After a while, his family notices that something is wrong and starts knocking at his bedroom door. Gregor hasn’t grasped his dire situation, so he tries talking to them, only to realize that his voice sounds odd. Yet, all of the family members are somewhat relieved, hearing distorted noises behind the closed door. He forcefully tries to steer and manipulate his new body out of bed, trying to get used to it. Gregor considers asking for help but swiftly decides against it.
Evidently, his boss comes to the house looking for him to find out why he’s missed his morning train. Having heard the clerk’s arrival, Gregor is now fully committed to his intention of getting out of that bed. He resents the idea that his boss is so hypocritically concerned with his absence. Grete, Gregor’s sister, becomes quite troubled with his strange behavior and whispers to him of the manager’s arrival. Gregor quietly answers back.
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Finally, after much struggle, he manages to swing down to the carpet, making “a loud thump.” He finds out that his back feels different now. It is more agile and elastic than before. Gregor’s attempts to open the door are futile, as his arms are no longer of human shape.
The clerk is first confronted by Gregor’s mother. She worryingly tries to explain that her son is feeling unwell today. Nonetheless, the clerk is deaf to her words. He states that a man has to “ignore any slight indisposition since business must be attended to.”
The clerk approaches the door and angrily starts agitating Gregor with false rumors about Gregor’s performance at work. He claims that Gregor skipped the day because of the misused company’s money previously entrusted to him and threatens that his position does not look too solid in the firm’s eyes. This tirade awfully frightens Gregor, who is listening behind the door. He pleads the clerk to give him “a moment or two longer” to open the door. He appeals that he is a dutiful and honest employee and has never done anything of the sort.
Gregor eventually makes his way to the door. With a lot of effort, he finally manages to open it, using his newly acquired colossal jaws. At the spectacle of Gregor, everyone is stunned. He moves towards the clerk, realizing in the process that it is more comfortable for him to switch to the horizontal position instead of the upright one. He tries to reason the guest, explain himself. However, the manager, without uttering a single word, runs away in horror.
The rest of the family is also shocked. The mother faints, while Gregor’s father reacts in a hostile way. With his boot, he launches the poor soul back to the bedroom, injuring Gregor in the process.
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🎭 Active Characters
Gregor Samsa, Grete Samsa, Mr. Samsa, Mrs. Samsa, Chief Clerk
🔥 Active Themes
💭 The Metamorphosis Chapter I Analysis
The Metamorphosis part I has many interesting details in it. Gregor knows that he cannot quit his job because everyone in the family is dependent on him. Even after finding himself in a bizarre situation, he can only worry about being late to work. This makes Gregor the only altruistic character in the novel. His family worries about him not only because of his health condition but also because of him being late to work.
Kafka does not give the reader any hints that the whole story might be happening in Gregor’s dream, as there’s a clear indication that he wakes up, thus, creating a story about surreal reality rather than a dream. However, it is still possible to assume that it might be the so-called “dream within a dream” or “false awakening” phenomenon. Medics agree that this anomaly often occurs due to high levels of stress and anxiety. Gregor has a nerve-racking job, an unforgiving supervisor, and a stressful lifestyle in general. One can suggest that his incapacitating situation is directly connected to his deepest fears of not being able to support his family.
Another intriguing aspect of the book is the style in which it was written. While talking about surreal and grotesque things, Kafka writes in a simple and straightforward way. This style is often called “Kafkaesque,” as it creates a ludicrous situation in a real-life setting. Again, the reader can see that Gregor isn’t particularly bothered by the overall situation but rather by his work and family duties.
Furthermore, Gregor’s physical metamorphosis happened overnight, but his mental metamorphosis continues to develop. The theme of Gregor’s alienation from the world is first presented after he awakens, as he thinks about his unpleasant lifestyle. He hates the job that forces him to travel a lot. It also prevents him from maintaining intimate and close relationships. He was already isolated from the people outside of his family before the events of The Metamorphosis.
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The theme of alienation is reinforced through Gregor’s surroundings. The author gives a brief description of a room in which the character lives. It is “a regular human bedroom” that lays “quiet between the four familiar walls” where he doesn’t spend much time due to his traveling for work. The room lacks personal touch except for the most notable detail – the print of the lady in the muff. This print represents Gregor’s longing for beauty and serves as a symbol of his humanity.
The question of money has a direct connection between Gregor and other family members in The Metamorphosis. Gregor earns his salary to support his close kin. Over the years, they became unfamiliar with work, as Gregor brought money and food to the family. Gregor’s transformation frustrates the Samsa family, as they can no longer stay dependent on him.
Gregor’s metamorphosis is evident. However, in the first chapter, his human mind has not adjusted to it yet. He does not realize right away that nobody can understand his speech; that his motility is now completely different. It is shown when Gregor collapses on all of his legs, becoming aware that the horizontal position is more comfortable.
In conclusion, the family reacts with horror to Gregor’s new appearance in The Metamorphosis chapter I. The mother faints, while the father is disgusted. Mr. Samsa is the first character to change his behavior towards Gregor, as he knows that a bug cannot feed and take care of the family. Gregor, on the other hand, is confused by their reaction.
Perhaps, his innocence can be seen as that he simply does not fully know yet, what kind of creature he has become. Another interpretation could lie in the aforementioned “False awakening” phenomenon, as people tend to experience ominous feelings without realizing what is actually wrong with them during lucid dreams. Although, the reader can only guess those things through the surreal and bizarre world of Franz Kafka.
Thanks for reading the article! Check The Metamorphosis Chapter II summary and analysis as well.