The Metamorphosis Chapter 2: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

In chapter two of Franz Kafka's 'Metamorphosis,' Gregor Samsa becomes more comfortable with his transformation. He begins to move about his room, but it comes at a price. His father still sees him as a threat and begins to treat him as such.

Nourishment

How would you react if one morning you had transformed into an insect? Perhaps an absurd thought, but it does address an interesting point. If our life were to change to the extent that nothing was familiar, what would we do? Would we become passive, or attempt to find a way to adapt and possibly overcome new obstacles? Gregor Samsa doesn't bemoan his transformation. Instead, he attempts to adapt, which includes learning what to eat.

Gregor's sister, Grete, still loves her brother. She brings him a basin of milk with pieces of bread floating in it. She knows that milk ''had been his favorite drink,'' but now Gregor discovers that it ''repulses him, and he crawls away from the basin of food.'' What is he to do now? He is extremely hungry, but cannot leave his room, lest he disrupt the calm of his family with his repulsive form.

Grete catches on quickly. She notices that the food has not been touched, but the milk has been spilled. She clears it away, and returns later with an assortment of food. She gives Gregor options to choose from to see what appeals to him. She leaves pieces of unripe fruits and vegetables, leftover food from the evening before, stale bread, and some cheese. Gregor devours the cheese. He begins to adapt.

Finances

The one meal of cheese bulks Gregor's insect frame to the point where it becomes difficult for him to hide effectively under the sofa. In order to prevent his sister, or anyone else, from catching sight of him, he drapes a sheet over the sofa. It covers some of where he hides so Grete will not fully see him. While things look like they might be getting better, Gregor learns otherwise when he eavesdrops on the family conversations.

The cook quits her job, as she is afraid of Gregor. Grete must step in to help with these duties. Then, he overhears his father discussing the family finances. Although he has a little sum leftover from his failed business, the remaining finances of the family are from Gregor's earnings. His earnings were not spent in full every month, so there now remains ''a small capital sum.'' Gregor calculates that the family could live ''for a year off the interest...at the most two, they could live on the principal.'' How will his family survive once this is gone?

His father isn't old, but he is no longer physically fit. His mother has asthma. Grete is seventeen, and musically talented. Gregor wanted to send her to school for this, but now, that will likely never happen. As a result of his failure to sufficiently provide for the family, Gregor feels ''hot with shame and grief.'' The family will have to adapt to the loss of income and need for future earnings.

Exercise

There isn't much for Gregor to do. He is essentially a prisoner in his own room. The room is small with furniture occupying a good portion of the floor space. Gregor can't spend all day under the couch, so he learns to walk on the walls and ceiling. He finds this ''much better than lying on the floor.'' This sort of activity helps Gregor ''gain better control of his body, to the point where a big fall did him no harm.'' Grete notices the trail he leaves, and decides to remove some of the furniture from his room to create more room for him to move.

Gregor's mother becomes convinced that Grete is correct in her assessment. However, while they are moving furniture from his room, she has a change of heart. She thinks that the removal of the furniture might give the impression that ''we have given up hope of his ever getting better?'' This is the first indication that Gregor's family mentions hope regarding Gregor's possible recovery. In leaving the furniture, they are preserving certain aspect of his humanity. They still perceive Gregor as human, even if his appearance provides a different perception.

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