The Metamorphosis - Chapter 1 Notes from Stories of Franz Kafka

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Stories of Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis - Chapter 1

The novella opens as Gregor Samsa awakens one morning feeling quite unlike his normal self. A traveling salesman still living in his parents' home, Gregor passes time avoiding his boss, trying to earn enough money so that he can pay back his parents (which he claims will take up to five or six years), and painlessly avoiding intimate relationships, a side effect he claims comes with his profession.

Topic Tracking: Family 1
Topic Tracking: Money 1

However, this morning is different, for he has awoken into the body of a large bug.

"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, could barely cling. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes." The Metamorphosis, Chapter 1, pg. 3

Gregor is hopelessly tired, after getting up so early in the morning (normally at 4am, yet today at 6:30), thinking such an hour un-humanlike. He thinks of other traveling salesmen living glorious lives similar to those of harem women, and sadly remembers his own. He listens to the rain beating against the windowpane and observes the surroundings of his room, notably a picture of a beautiful woman dressed in fur. They are exactly as they were the day before. Gregor wonders if he will be able to make the 7:00 am train.

As he lay in bed awake struggling to decipher a method out of it, he realizes that he must think hard, for he simply cannot stay in bed all day useless. He worries that if he drifts away, he may lose consciousness. A short while later, Gregor realizes that it is already 7:00 and he has missed the train. He attempts to lift himself out of bed, but has difficulty. His numerous little legs are difficult to control, and consequently stretch his body out when moved. He attempts to get out of bed with his bottom half and finds disaster and pain. He discovers that his top half will be less sensitive and therefore the most useful means of mobility. He thinks how easy movement would be if only he had some help: two people like his father and the maid. Meanwhile, Gregor's sister and father beat on his bedroom door, calling him to leave for work. Gregor muffles his voice and proudly manages to send them away.

At a quarter past seven, the doorbell rings. Gregor prays that nobody answers it. Unfortunately, the maid is trained in her duties and quickly answers the door. Upon hearing one word out of the visitor, Gregor realizes that it is his manager and is furious that his company has sent the highest-ranking officer to make a house call on the only day he has ever been late to work. "Why was only Gregor condemned to work for a firm where at the slightest omission they immediately suspected the worst? Were all employees louts without exception, wasn't there a single loyal, dedicated worker among them who, when he had not fully utilized a few hours of the morning for the firm, was driven half-mad by pangs of conscience and was actually unable to get out of bed?" Chapter 1, pg. 9 With this thought, Gregor thrusts his full body out of bed and lands crashing on his elastic back with an enormous bang on the floor. The Samsa family hears the noise, worrying about Gregor.

As the moments pass, the anxious family begs Gregor to open the door. His sister begins to sob, while the manager utters threatening words. He informs Gregor that the boss has been worried about Gregor's position, but that he, the manager, has always supported Gregor's professional work ethic. Gregor is in possession of much cash for the company, and the manager now tells him that he hopes Gregor will not do anything stupid with it, for his job is far from secure. This information worries Gregor, for he vows never to let his family down. Their entire livelihood and happiness depend on his income.

Topic Tracking: Money 2

The family continues to beg him to open the door, while Gregor repeatedly answers all questions with a yes or a no. Gregor, fearing the loss of his job, finally responds to the manager, claiming that he has been sick all morning and is just now waking up out of his illness. He further claims that he can still make the 8:00 train and that there is no reason to suspect any foul play. After Gregor's words, his family erupts in fear and anxiety, wondering about the odd noises they hear from inside Gregor's room. His sister Grete and mother Anna believe his voice sounds like an animal and scream for a doctor, while the manager and his father beckon a locksmith to open the door. Forgetting his back pain, Gregor pulls himself up, finds the key, grasps it within his strong yet toothless jaws, and slowly opens the door. Everyone cheers him on. He does not even notice the injury he causes himself by doing so, ignorant of the white substance he emits that falls on the ground.

Topic Tracking: Family 2

When Gregor opens the door, he is initially hidden. However, upon first glance, the family curls in shock and fear:

"And now he could see him, standing closest to the door, his hand pressed over his open mouth, slowly backing away, as if repulsed by an invisible, unrelenting force. His mother - in spite of the manager's presence she stood with her hair still unbraided from the night, sticking out in all directions - first looked at his father with her hands clasped, then took two steps towards Gregor, and sank down in the midst of her skirt spreading out around her, her face completely hidden on her breast. With a hostile expression his father clenched his fist, as if to drive Gregor back into his room, then looked uncertainly around the living room, shielded his eyes with his hands, and sobbed with heaves of his powerful chest." The Metamorphosis, Chapter 1, pg. 15

Gregor proceeds to explain his professional - not physical - predicament to his manager, claiming that a traveling salesman is always the butt of jokes and question, and becomes an easy scapegoat for all problems, since he is out of the office everyday. However, all Gregor does is work. His family claims his works too much and socializes too little.

Topic Tracking: Solitude 1

The manager turns away in disgust, trying to leave the house by means of the foyer. Gregor realizes that he cannot let this man escape his house without leaving with him - with the samples - to go to work. He realizes that he cannot allow the manager to return to the firm with such horror stories, so he lunges at him, attempting to console and explain his current bizarre circumstances. The manager runs away in fear. Meanwhile, Gregor's father spots the manager's cane, and in a moment extreme trepidation and realization, lunges at Gregor, leading him back into his room. Gregor had never tried to walk backwards before, and finds such a task extremely trying. Nonetheless, his father pushes him back into the room, ultimately ramming him through the small space vertically. Bleeding and oozing, Gregor flies through the air and back into his room, with his family closing the door quickly behind him.

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