The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a short story that you can read in less than an hour. Yet, it is filled with an engaging plot and memorable quotes. Some phrases and concepts can be tricky to figure out, so our team has gathered this collection. In this article, you’ll see the quotes from The Metamorphosis and their analysis.
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The most important quotes are as follows:
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.“(Chapter 1)
Among many quotes from The Metamorphosis, this one is the novella’s opening sentence and most famous phrase. One morning Gregor wakes up only to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect-like creature. The whole absurdity of the situation is comical and correlates with Kafka’s widely known style of writing, “Kafkaesque.” The character of Gregor Samsa, without any explanation, undergoes a ridiculous metamorphosis. At the same time, his mindset remained human. In popular culture, the opening sentence of The Metamorphosis is often used to describe a person who found themselves in a bizarre situation.
Franz Kafka does not give the reader any hints that the whole plot might be happening in Gregor’s dream. 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.
“Oh God, he thought, what an exhausting job I’ve picked on! Traveling about day in, day out. It’s much more irritating work than doing the actual business in the office, and on top of that there’s the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying about train connections, the bed and irregular meals, casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends.“(Chapter 1)
Gregor lives a stressful and lonely life of a traveling salesman. In this excerpt, he contemplates his job and expresses his resentment for it. This lifestyle does not suit him at all, as every time Gregor has to worry about “train connections,” “bed,” “irregular meals,” etc. The nature of his job restricts him from having any personal relationships. Nevertheless, Gregor knows that he cannot quit his job because everyone in the family depends on him.
Nowadays, people who travel a lot due to the nature of their jobs experience general feelings of loneliness and, sometimes, even depression. The reader has to imagine how hard it was to travel and work in the past with limited means of communication. Through this quote, the author elaborates on the theme of loneliness and isolation. Kafka himself experienced alienation in his short and tragic life.
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“These had been fine times, and they had never recurred, at least not with the same sense of glory, although later on Gregor had earned so much money that he was able to meet the expenses of the whole household and did so. They had simply got used to it, both the family and Gregor; the money was gratefully accepted and gladly given, but there was no special uprush of warm feeling.“(Chapter 1)
Gregor is a hard-working man who supports his family. His persistence and self-negligence allowed him to earn sufficient wealth to provide for the whole household after his father became unemployed. As a consequence, the family members did not see any need to pick up work. They simply relied on Gregor, who made their lifestyles quite comfortable. With time they began taking Gregor’s support and even his existence for granted with “no special uprush of warm feeling.” Gregor’s altruism played a twisted joke on him, making the poor soul nothing more than a money bag for the Samsas.
Moreover, Gregor learns that their financial situation is not actually that desperate, as Mr. Samsa has kept some investments over the years. This fact is sufficient enough to characterize the family’s insensitive attitude towards Gregor. The excerpt demonstrates Kafka’s views on the realities of modern times, as people became dehumanized while pursuing financial prosperity.
“His mother, moreover, began relatively soon to want to visit him, but his father and sister dissuaded her at first with arguments which Gregor listened to very attentively and altogether approved. Later, however, she had to be held back by main force, and when she cried out: “Do let me in to Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Can’t you understand that I must go to him?”(Chapter 2)
These lines speak on the theme of family in The Metamorphosis and, in particular, Mrs. Samsa’s character. She is the mother of Gregor and Grete, who can be described as a loving and submissive character. Mrs. Samsa keeps her love for Gregor after he undergoes the transformation.
She tries to think that her son’s condition is simply a “temporary illness” that will soon go away. She desires to visit him and participate in his life a little more. But she cannot bear looking at his insect body, fainting two times she sees Gregor in his new form. Nevertheless, the mother worries about her son and begs her husband not to hurt Gregor when he starts throwing apples at the poor soul.
“Although Gregor kept reassuring himself that nothing out of the way was happening, but only a few bits of furniture were being changed round, he soon had to admit that all this trotting to and fro of the two women, their little ejaculations and the scraping of furniture along the floor affected him like a vast disturbance coming from all sides at once, and however much he tucked in his head and legs and cowered to the very floor he was bound to confess that he would not be able to stand it for long.“(Chapter 2)
The quote is taken from an episode when Grete and Mrs. Samsa were in the process of removing the furniture from Gregor’s bedroom. The scene plays a vital role in the novel, as it is one of the moments of Gregor’s inner battle between his body and mind. His physical metamorphosis happens overnight, but his mental transformation keeps developing throughout the whole book.
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As women are “trotting” around the room, Gregor tries to cope with their rapid movements and sounds. However, the insect part of his mind senses much disturbance in all of that. It forces Gregor to tuck his whole body to the floor and hide. This behavior is typical to many types of bugs when they conceal themselves from human activity to seek safety. His instincts overlap his human logic and thought process so that he cannot follow them anymore.
“And doesn’t it look,” […] “doesn’t it look as if we were showing him, by taking away his furniture, that we have given up hope of his ever getting better and are just leaving him coldly to himself? I think it would be best to keep his room exactly as it has always been so that when he comes back to us he will find everything unchanged and be able all the more easily to forget what has happened in between.”(Chapter 2)
This is one of the quotes on the transformation theme. While Grete moves the furniture around to give Gregor’s new lifestyle better freedom of movement, the mother expresses her concerns about this rearrangement. She is worried that the change is going to show Gregor how drastically his transformation affected people around him and his family. As Mrs. Samsa perceives her son’s condition as an illness that will soon go away, she suggests leaving everything in the bedroom “exactly as it has always been.”
“[…] once more, after this long interval, there appeared in his thoughts the figures of the chief and the chief clerk, the commercial travelers and the apprentices, the porter who was so dull-witted, two or three friends in other firms, a chambermaid in one of the rural hotels, a sweet and fleeting memory, a cashier in a milliner’s shop, whom he had wooed earnestly but too slowly-they all appeared, together with strangers or people he had quite forgotten, but instead of helping him and his family they were one and all unapproachable and he was glad when they vanished.“(Chapter 3)
As time goes by, Gregor’s metamorphosis controls his mind more and more. Simultaneously, he loses memory of many insignificant people he had met before. Gregor contemplates brief acquaintances from the past and feels anger towards them. People have never offered their assistance to him or his family before and after his transformation. Also, Gregor is partly glad that they vanished, as his new instinct dictates that fewer people means less disturbance to his existence.
This excerpt is one of the alienation quotes and, coincidentally, quotes about his transformation. Gregor realizes that isolation suits his vermin lifestyle quite well. In chapter 3, the solitude becomes almost self-inflicted because Gregor reacts aggressively every time someone enters his room. Thus, the metamorphosis takes nearly complete control of his mind and thoughts.
“Was he an animal, that music had such an effect upon him? He felt as if the way were opening before him to the unknown nourishment he craved. He was determined to push forward till he reached his sister, to pull at her skirt and so let her know that she was to come into his room with her violin, for no one here appreciated her playing as he would appreciate it.“(Chapter 3)
One of Kafka’s Metamorphosis quotes is taken from the scene when Grete plays her violin for the three lodgers. The family had taken them as a prospect of additional income. The concert completely mesmerizes Gregor with its beautiful sound. He gets so excited and hopeful that wants to come closer to his sister. He strives to let her know how much he appreciates her talent. However, one of the lodgers spots his dusty body on the floor. This kind of evidence is unacceptable for these strict and organized people. They declare that they will not pay anything for their whole stay.
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The violin represents the emotional link between the two siblings and their hopes and aspirations for a better future. Gregor’s love and support for Grete are revived. The melody reminds Gregor of his humanity and makes him question his bug-like existence. Thus, the battle between Gregor’s body and mind takes a sudden turn. His human side wins over the insect one.
“He must go,” cried Gregor’s sister, “that’s the only solution, Father. You must just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we’ve believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble. But how can it be Gregor? If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can’t live with such a creature, and he’d have gone away on his own accord.”(Chapter 3)
Unfortunately, Gregor’s appearance at the concert becomes the boiling point for Greta’s patience. She says that “things can’t go on like this” with the vermin in the house and that the family must get rid of “it.”
Greta’s disgust with Gregor increased steadily throughout the novel. Her reaction to her brother at the concert suggests that she simply cannot bear anymore the burden of seeing the creature that used to be her brother. Greta easily persuades her parents that they must dispose of “it.” They assume that the insect cannot understand them as it doesn’t contain Gregor.
This is one of The Metamorphosis’ quotes that gives a clear view of the family’s exhaustion and disgust towards Gregor. They eventually lose all the emotional connection with him. Perhaps, the only thing that made them somewhat appreciate Gregor’s existence was his financial contribution to the family. So, in the end, they decide to dispose of the creature coldly. It has caused them so much trouble since the “disappearance” of Gregor.
“He thought of his family with tenderness and love. The decision that he must disappear was one that he held to even more strongly than his sister, if that were possible.“(Chapter 3)
The family’s conversation after the concert heavily impacted Gregor’s health. After he had returned to his bedroom, “his whole body was aching.”
Indeed, words can directly affect a person’s body and health. Numerous scientific studies and articles proved that health is interconnected with the mind. Quite often, a person can get sick from emotional struggles instead of a virus. Nonetheless, Gregor did not have any anger towards his family but rather only cared about their well-being even at the brink of his death.
Gregor feels more like a human after the concert. He now realizes how much he missed the outside world. His desires switch back from caring about food and hissing at people to wishing he would transform back and support his family. However, all those thoughts happen within the borders of his insect body.
He can imagine himself only as a bug who looks and communicates like one, which makes the metamorphosis complete. He realizes that he has to disappear. Gregor Samsa dies soon after, as “his head sank to the floor of its own accord and from his nostrils came the last faint flicker of his breath..”
“While they were thus conversing, it struck both Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, almost at the same moment, as they became aware of their daughter’s increasing vivacity, that in spite of all the sorrow of recent times, which had made her cheeks pale, she had bloomed into a pretty girl with a good figure. They grew quieter and half unconsciously exchanged glances of complete agreement, having come to the conclusion that it would soon be time to find a good husband for her.”(Chapter 3)
Gregor’s death resolved the tension in the family and brought back the sympathy towards him because he was no longer a burden. Instead, the Samsas remembered that he was once a son, brother, and, most importantly, a human. The family decides to take a day off from their jobs and go to the countryside for some fresh air.
In The Metamorphosis, Grete grows from a “useless” daughter to a mature young woman, working a job and taking responsibilities in the family. The Samsa’s views on her change. After Gregor’s death, the parents notice her sophistication. They silently agree that it is time to choose a husband for her. Grete becomes the symbol of new hope for the Samsa family.
Thanks for reading the article! Now you know what some of the most memorable quotes from The Metamorphosis mean. You can check the analysis of the short story’s plot or its themes in other articles.