Literature Study GuidesThe MetamorphosisPart 1 A Visit From The Office Manager Summary

The Metamorphosis | Study Guide

Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis | Part 1 (A Visit from the Office Manager) | Summary

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Summary

As the family's concern grows, Gregor's office manager arrives to find out why Gregor missed the train to work. Gregor, scoffing at the idea of the office manager checking up on him, grows determined to get out of bed—and ends up throwing himself on the floor. Gregor then realizes that his back is far more elastic and flexible than he thought.

When Gregor does not open his bedroom door, his mother explains that her son is not feeling well, to which the office manager replies that "if we people in commerce ever become slightly unwell ... we simply have to overcome it because of business considerations." Gregor's father, growing all the more impatient, knocks forcefully at the door, while his sister Grete starts to cry.

As Gregor stays put in his room, the office manager grows all the more agitated—and brings up rumors circulating in the workplace that Gregor misused money entrusted to him and that his latest sales numbers were less than ideal. Gregor, in a panic, defends himself against the allegations and eventually makes his way to the door. Attempting to turn the key, he realizes he no longer has teeth but uses his enormously strong jaw to unlock the door. At the sight of Gregor, his mother collapses on the floor while his father clenches his fists in anger and cries.

Meanwhile, Gregor fears the office manager will get him in trouble at work and begs him to see his absence from work as unavoidable. He even moves toward the manager to try to detain him. The frightened office manager, however, leaves the house in haste, while Gregor's father starts to shove and hiss at his son in a fit of rage. With a final boot of his foot, Mr. Samsa sends Gregor flying through the air into a corner of his bedroom, bleeding and injured.

Analysis

Gregor's (and likely Kafka's) attitude about modern work comes across strongly in this section. He sneers at the thought of a high-ranking employee like the office manager checking up on him. Kafka paints a picture of a highly suspicious, untrusting management team that operates from the top down and values profitability above all else. Readers see this, too, in the unreasonable demands of Gregor's boss, who expects his employees will never fall ill or need to take a day off. Still, Gregor seems to have mastered the demanding routine of his job, and he defends his performance fiercely but to no avail.

While Mrs. Samsa attempts to persuade the office manager that Gregor is seriously ill, Mr. Samsa tries to lure Gregor to open his door and appease his superior. Consequently, Mr. Samsa comes across as being more concerned with Gregor's income-earning potential than his well-being. This image of Mr. Samsa is confirmed when he lashes out and hurts Gregor. To Mr. Samsa, the clerk's departure represents the family's lost chance at a sustaining income; in reaction, Gregor's father unleashes his fear and anxiety on his son.

Though initially clumsy and awkward, Gregor starts to adapt to his new body. He figures out ways to move himself around in an environment not at all suited to his new form. He experiences "physical well-being" and "joy" the first time he runs around on his new legs: "they even strained to carry him away wherever he wanted to go; and he already believed that final recovery from all his sufferings was imminent." Does Gregor believe he is about to escape the horror to which he awoke? Or, on the contrary, does he believe escape from his humdrum life is at hand? Like many areas in the text, the meaning of this passage is elusive.

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