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The Metamorphosis | Study Guide

Franz Kafka

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Plot Summary

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis.

The Metamorphosis | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


In The Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, awakens one morning to discover he has turned into an insect-like creature. He lies in bed for a while, thinking about the many unpleasant aspects of his career and his family's heavy reliance on his income. Seeing that he is late for work, he panics, worries about his boss's reaction, and contemplates calling in sick.

Gregor's mother, father, and sister all call to him in his room; he responds in a strange voice that increases their concern. Meanwhile, Gregor tries desperately to maneuver his awkward new body out of bed.

Soon Gregor's supervisor comes looking for Gregor. He accepts none of the family's excuses. When Gregor tries to defend himself, no one can understand him. Eventually Gregor manages to unlock his door and come out. At the sight of him, his mother swoons; his father clenches his jaw and fist—and then weeps. Gregor tries telling his supervisor what a dedicated worker he is—but his boss leaves the house in terror. Gregor's father then angrily herds his son back to his room, injuring Gregor in the process.

Over the following days Gregor keeps hidden in his room by a mutual, unspoken understanding. Grete becomes his caretaker, feeding him and cleaning his room when her parents and the maid are not around. She performs her duties briskly, without much attention to her brother. Meanwhile, Gregor spends his days reflecting on family—and how he threw himself into his job in an effort to save his parents and sister after the unfortunate collapse of his father's business some five years ago. Gregor thinks about his plans to save up and pay for his sister's education, and he worries that his aging parents are not well enough to work.

Grete decides to move the furnishings out of Gregor's room to give him more freedom of movement. His mother, who has not seen him since the first morning, thinks these changes will upset Gregor, but she agrees to help. When she sees Gregor, she swoons (again). Grete scolds Gregor and escorts her hysterical mother from the room.

Gregor goes to check on his mother just as Mr. Samsa, now employed and consistently wearing his uniform, even at home, returns home from work. He blames Gregor for the unhappy scene and angrily pelts his son with apples. One becomes lodged painfully in his back and soon becomes infected, hastening Gregor's demise.

As the days pass Gregor uses a gap in the bedroom door to observe and listen to his family as they go about their routines. He learns that his mother and Grete now have jobs and that the family has taken in three demanding boarders. All the while Grete's attention to her brother declines, and Gregor feels like a burden. He eats less and less.

One evening, Grete plays her violin. Gregor crawls into the living room to be near the lovely sound. The boarders spot him and immediately announce that they are leaving. In response Grete tells her parents they must do something about Gregor. Gregor hears the whole conversation. He makes his way back to his room, where he dies early the next morning.

The Samsas feel both saddened and relieved by Gregor's death. They decide to treat themselves to a day in the countryside with fresh air and sunshine. There, they start envisioning a path forward.

The Metamorphosis Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Gregor Samsa awakens as an insect-like creature.

Rising Action

2 Mr. Samsa loses his temper and hurts one of Gregor's legs.

3 Seeing Gregor atop a wall picture, Mrs. Samsa faints.

4 Mr. Samsa hurls apples at his son, injuring him badly.

5 Gregor leaves his room to see and hear Grete play violin.

6 The boarders spot Gregor and question Mr. Sasma.


7 Grete urges her parents to get rid of Gregor.

Falling Action

8 Gregor returns to his room, dying the next morning.


9 The Samsas take a day to relax in the country.

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