The Metamorphosis Chapter 3: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

Chapter 3 of Franz Kafka's novella 'The Metamorphosis' contains the sad end of the unfortunate protagonist, Gregor, and a new beginning for his long-suffering family. Once you've read the summary of chapter 3, be sure to take the quiz.

Background Information

The Metamorphosis is a novella written by novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. Since that time, the story has become a classic of 20th-century literature and a case study for the surrealistic style of writing.

The plot centers around the fact that Gregor Samsa, a hard-working traveling salesman, awakes one morning to find that he is mysteriously transformed into a giant beetle-like insect.

The unfortunate transformation of Gregor
The Transformed Gregor

The strangest feature of the narrative for most readers is the fact that Gregor continues to think human thoughts throughout his insect life. Indeed, until the very end, his family continues to consider him a part of the family in some vague way.

Chapter 3 Summary

Remember that this is a novella, shorter than the usual novel, so when you get to Chapter 3, you are approaching the climax and resolution of the narrative. At the beginning of this final chapter, Gregor is seriously ill, with an infection in his back from the apple stuck in his skin, and hungry. He has not found anything he wants to eat among the scraps given to him by his sister.

Things have changed with the family, too. All three now have jobs, and Gregor's sister Grete is studying at night to improve her situation. In addition, they have taken in boarders, who have not yet seen the hideous Gregor.

Gregor's room has changed, too. With additional people in the apartment, space is cramped, and most of the unwanted and unused items are stored in Gregor's room; this situation only adds to poor Gregor's feelings that he is an unwanted cast-off himself.

Unwanted items stored in Gregors room
Messy Room

Yet, at least in the beginning of this chapter, Gregor is still considered a part of the family unit in spite of his transformation. When the family gathers in the evening to talk, they open Gregor's door so that he may watch and hear. They have no idea that he still thinks and understands in a human way.

The Samsas have never had boarders before and feel they must act toward them rather like a serving staff. One night, after eating in the kitchen while the boarder's eat at the dining room table, Grete begins to play her violin for her mother and father. Soon, the three gentlemen boarders call her out to the main room to play for them.

Gregor is so drawn to her music that he begins to move further out of his hidden space. He actually has the plan of getting close enough to once again touch his sister Grete.

Music lures Gregor out
Grete Playing Violin

Unfortunately, this is the beginning of the end. The boarders have now spotted Gregor and react as you might expect they would. If you rented a room or apartment and found that it contained a man-sized insect, wouldn't you complain? Of course! All three gentlemen announce their intention to vacate the apartment without paying what they owe and then go to bed.

The family meet to discuss the current situation. The most strident in saying Gregor must go is Grete, who has begun to refer to the insect as 'it' rather than 'him.' Remember that she was the one who, in the beginning on the novella, tried to feed and care for her brother. But now she wants 'it' out, and her parents reluctantly agree. But what to do with him?

Gregor, starving, ill, and unwanted, solves the problem for them. The next morning, the cleaning woman finds his corpse, making sure Gregor is dead by poking the body with her broom. She then alerts the family, who come to see for themselves. The reader can hardly blame the long-suffering family for thanking God that this burden has been lifted from them.

With Gregor dead, Mr. Samsa gathers his courage and defends his household and remaining family, ordering the men out immediately. Now that their living situation is drastically altered for the good, the Samsas decide to take off from their jobs and spend a day in the country. On the train, they chat happily about their future prospects, which suddenly seem to them quite bright. Perhaps it is even time for Grete to find a suitable husband.

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