Literature Study GuidesThe MetamorphosisPart 3 States Of Decline Summary

The Metamorphosis | Study Guide

Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis | Part 3 (States of Decline) | Summary

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Summary

Badly injured by the apple lodged in his flesh, Gregor can no longer scurry about his room. Instead, he crawls laboriously and languishes in his room all day. All of the members of his family work now, and in the evening they leave the door to the living room open, enabling Gregor to watch and listen. He notices how quiet the evenings have become. After dinner most evenings, his father falls asleep in his chair, still wearing his uniform; his mother works steadily on her sewing projects (fancy underwear for a retail store); and his sister, following a full day of work in a sales job, studies shorthand and French.

Despite their jobs, the Samsa family cannot maintain their former standard of living, cutting expenses by getting rid of their full-time, live-in maid, instead hiring a cleaning lady (or charwoman) to come in the mornings and evenings. Gregor notices his father's uniform, once immaculate, has become shabby and stained. And he watches as dust and dirt pile up in his own bedroom, which his sister no longer maintains. At one point, his mother brings in a bucket of water and cleans Gregor's room. The dampness makes Gregor sick, however, and Grete fiercely chastises her mother for taking on added work, insisting "she was never to clean Gregor's room again."

The distress Gregor's room causes his family upsets Gregor, who cannot understand why they do not simply ask the charwoman to clean it. She certainly is not put off by Gregor and enters his room whenever she feels like it. She speaks directly to Gregor, calling him an "old dung beetle" and not backing down when he hisses and arches his back at her.

Gregor, meanwhile, stops eating, is covered with dust and debris, and is overcome with sadness and pain from his injury. His family takes on three boarders, which helps make ends meet but adds to their already full workload. Because the boarders bring their own furniture, the family moves many of their own pieces to Gregor's ever-more cluttered room.

Analysis

Gregor might be badly injured, but his despair comes less from his physical pain than from his inability to provide for his family. He spends his days and nights worrying about his family and watching them go through the motions of dinner, too tired to engage each other in conversation and doing their best just to get through it. Even though they work hard, the family struggles to make ends meet, reflecting Kafka's critique of life and work in the modern world. In some ways Mr. Samsa's behavior starts to resemble Gregor's before his metamorphosis; just as Gregor used to work every evening, Mr. Samsa stays in his uniform, "as if always ready to serve and expecting to hear the voice of his superior even here."

When Gregor is not feeling guilty, however, he is enraged over the lack of attention. On one hand, he understands why, asking himself such questions as, "Who, in this tired and overworked family, would have had time to give more attention to Gregor than was absolutely necessary?" On the other, he feels abandoned and ignored. He knows, for instance, that his sister is well aware of the dirt piling up in his room yet chooses to ignore it.

What Gregor really longs for is his family's appreciation, love, and attention. But instead, he gets the charwoman barging in on him, unannounced, and his parents and sister spending their off-hours taking care of the three boarders instead of the loving son and brother who supported them all those years: "Here I am dying!" Gregor thinks to himself, watching jealously as his family tends to every need of the three gentlemen paying rent to live in the Samsa home.

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