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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Book Summary

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  • 0:03 Characters
  • 0:24 Part I
  • 1:38 Part II
  • 2:55 Part III
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Audrey Farley

Audrey is a doctoral student in English at University of Maryland.

This lesson presents a comprehensive plot summary of Franz Kafka's novella, ''The Metamorphosis.'' The narrative tells the story of a traveling salesman who wakes one morning to find he's transformed into a giant insect.

Characters

Gregor Samsa is the main protagonist in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. He's a traveling salesman, who wakes up one day to find that he has transformed into an insect. He has a younger sister, Grete, who takes care of him after his metamorphosis. He and Grete live with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa.

Part I

One Day, Gregor Samsa wakes up to discover that he has transformed into a giant insect. He lays in bed, reflecting on his tedious life as a salesman. He realizes he has overslept and will be late for work. He wonders what his boss will do. His mother knocks on the door, and he answers her. When he does so, Gregor notices that his voice sounds very different. His mother does not notice.

Gregor's sister, Grete, begs him to open the door. When he tries to get out of bed, he realizes he cannot. Gregor hears his office manager at the door, inquiring about his whereabouts. Gregor manages to roll his body off the bed, onto the floor. He calls out to let the clerk know he will be out shortly. The office manager is offended and cautions him about the consequences of skipping work. He also notes the Gregor has been failing to satisfy his employers. Gregor protests, but no one can decipher his words. They assume that he has fallen gravely ill.

Finally, Gregor is able to open the door. His mother immediately faints upon seeing him in his transformed state. The office manager flees. When Gregor chases after him, his father corrals him back into the bedroom with a cane and a newspaper. He falls asleep.

Part II

When Gregor wakes up, he notices milk and bread in his room. While he is very hungry, he has no taste for the milk. The next day, his sister comes in. She replaces the milk with rotting food scraps, which her brother quickly consumes. She cleans up his room, while he hides under the couch, fearing that he might scare her. This becomes a routine: Grete brings food and cleans up after him, while he hides.

Gregor overhears his family members talk about their stressful financial situation. Now that Gregor cannot go to work, the family is struggling to make ends meet. Gregor is sad that he can't provide for his family. He is also sad that he will not be able to send his sister to the conservatory to study violin.

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