GREGOR'S SEVERE WOUND, from which he suffered for over a month—the apple remained in his flesh as a visible memento because nobody ventured to remove it—seemed of its own accord to remind the father that Gregor, despite his present miserable and revolting form, was a member of the family that one wasn't permitted to treat like an enemy. Instead, with regards to the dictates of family obligations, swallowing revulsion, one must endure, if nothing else—endure. And now if Gregor, because of his wound, had, probably forever, lost his mobility and, like an old invalid, currently needed many, many minutes to cross the room—crawling up in the air was unthinkable—he received what, in his opinion, was entirely sufficient compensation for this worsening of his condition. In the evenings the living room door, that he only two hours previously had been in the habit of closely observing, would be opened so that he, lying in the darkness of his room, could, without being seen from the living room, see the entire family at the illuminated table and, to a degree, with their common consent (which had previously been otherwise), listen to their conversation.
It was admittedly not the lively discussion of the earlier times that Gregor had always thought about longingly in the small hotel rooms when he, tired, had had to throw himself on the damp bedding. What went on was now mostly very quiet. The father fell asleep in his armchair immediately following the evening meal. The mother and sister cautioned one another to be quiet; the mother, bent down under the light, sewed lingerie for a fashion boutique; the sister, who had accepted a position as a saleswoman, studied stenography and French in the evenings so that sometime later she, perhaps, would get a better position. Sometimes the father woke up and, as if he was unaware that he had slept, said to the mother, “My, you've already been sewing for such a long time!” Then he immediately fell asleep again, and, fatigued, the mother and sister smiled with fatigue at one another.
The father refused with a sort of obstinacy to take off his servant's uniform even at home, and while the sleeping gown hung uselessly on a coat hook, he slumbered fully clothed in his place, as if he were always to serve and even here awaited the voice of his superior. Consequently, the uniform, which even at first had not been new, lost all semblance of cleanliness, despite the care of the mother and sister, and Gregor, often all evening long, would look upon the clothing, covered in stains and with gold buttons that were always polished, in which the father would quite uncomfortably and yet peacefully sleep.
As soon as the clock struck ten, the mother tried to wake the father with quiet words and convince him to go to bed, as this was no proper place for a sleep that the father, who had to report to work at six o'clock, especially needed. But in the obstinacy that had seized him since he became a servant, he insisted on remaining a while longer at the table, even though he regularly fell asleep, and only with the greatest effort could he be moved to exchange the chair for the bed. Regardless of how many times mother and sister would besiege him with coaxing, he would slowly shake his head for a quarter hour with his eyes closed and did not stand up. The mother would tug his sleeves, speak flattering words in his ear; the sister would abandon her tasks to help her, but it didn't cut any ice with the father. He sank even deeper into his armchair. Only when the two women grabbed him by the underarms would he open his eyes, look alternately at the mother and sister, and usually say, “Live and let live. This is the peace of my old age.” And, supported by both women, he would laboriously raise himself as if it were an immense burden, allow himself to be led to the door by the women, wave them aside there, and continue on from there while the mother quickly threw down her sewing kit and the sister her quill pen so that they could run after the father and continue to be helpful to him.
Who in this overworked and fatigued family had time to look after Gregor any more than was absolutely necessary? The household shrank ever smaller: the maid was now dismissed, and a big bony servant with white hair flying about her head came in the mornings and evenings to do the hardest work; the mother took care of everything else, in addition to her copious sewing work. It even happened that various pieces of family jewelry, which the mother and the sister had joyously worn when they entertained company or on festive occasions, were sold, as Gregor found out during the general discussion in the evening about the price they had fetched. However, the biggest complaint was always that they could not leave this apartment, which was too large for their current income, because relocating Gregor was inconceivable. But Gregor fully understood that it was not only consideration for him that forestalled a move, because one could easily transport him in a suitable box with a few air holes, but it was much more the complete hopelessness and the thought that they had experienced a stroke of bad luck unlike any known in their entire circle of family and friends.
They now satisfied, in the extreme, the world's expectations of poor people: the father fetched breakfast for minor bank clerks, the mother sacrificed herself for the underwear of strangers, the sister ran to and fro behind the counter according to the customers' orders, but the family's efforts were insufficient. And the wound in Gregor's back began to hurt anew when mother and sister, after they had brought the father to bed, then returned, disregarded their work, came together, and sat cheek-to-cheek as the mother pointed towards Gregor's room and said, “Shut the door, Grete,” and, when Gregor was once more in the darkness, the women, mingling their tears or tearless, stared at the table.
Gregor spent the nights and days with hardly any sleep. Sometimes he considered that, the next time the door was opened, he would take up the family's concerns as he once had. In his thoughts once more appeared, after a long time, the boss and the attorney, the superintendents and the apprentices, the blockheaded janitor, two or three friends from other businesses, a cleaning maid at a hotel in the provinces, a fleeting and favorite memory about a saleswoman in a hat shop whom he earnestly and far too slowly had courted—they all appeared intermingled with strangers or people already forgotten, but instead of helping him and his family, they were entirely unapproachable, and he was happy when they disappeared.
But then, he was hardly in the mood to care for his family, filled as he was with blind rage over their negligent care of him; and even though he could not imagine what he had an appetite for, he still made plans about how he could gain entry to the pantry so that he could take, even though he wasn't hungry, what was his due. Without giving any more thought to how they could especially please Gregor, the sister hurriedly shoved any old food she wanted into the room with her foot before she ran in the mornings and middays to the shop, and in the evening, indifferent as to whether the food had perhaps been only tried or—as most often happened—completely untouched, with a swing of the broom, she swept it out. Cleaning out the room, which she now always did in the evening, could hardly be done quicker. Dirt streaks stretched all along the walls; here and there lay balls of dust and filth. At first, Gregor positioned himself in a corner of the room, characteristically dirty, so as to make, as it were, an accusation. But he could have stayed there all week long with no change in the sister's behavior; she saw the filth just as he did, but she had decided to let it alone.
In this manner she, with a new sensitivity that had actually gripped the entire family, vigilantly ensured that the cleaning of Gregor's room remained set aside for her. One time the mother had endeavored to clean Gregor's room completely —a task that she, only after using a few buckets of water, had accomplished. The pervasive dampness had, however, sickened Gregor and he lay flat, embittered, and immobile on the couch—but the punishment for the mother was yet to come. In the evening, the sister had hardly noticed the change before she, highly offended, ran into the living room and, despite the pleading hands raised by the mother, broke out into fit of crying that the parents—the father was naturally shocked out of his armchair—first looked at with helpless astonishment until they became provoked. On his right side the father began to reproach the mother, telling her not to usurp the cleaning of Gregor's room from the sister and then turned to his left and screamed at the sister, telling her that she may never clean Gregor's room again, while the mother sought to drag the father, beside himself with exasperation, into the bedroom; the sister, shaken by her sobs, worked at the table with her small fists, and Gregor hissed loudly in rage because it hadn't occurred to anyone to shut the door and spare him this scene and commotion.
But if the sister, exhausted from her job and fed up with it as she was, had cared for Gregor herself, the mother would not have had any cause for entering, and Gregor would not have been neglected. That's why the servant was now there. This old widow, who, come what may, had, during her long life, survived even the greatest of troubles with the help of her bony build, had no particular aversion to Gregor. Without being curious, if this were possible, she chanced to open the door of Gregor's room one time and caught a glimpse of Gregor, who, entirely surprised and despite nobody chasing him, began to run to and fro; she, her hands falling into her lap, remained standing there in astonishment. Since then, she never failed to open the door a crack in the mornings and evenings and quickly look in on Gregor. In the beginning she also called out to him with words that she probably thought were friendly, like, “C'mon over here, y'a old dung beetle!” or “Lookie here at the old dung beetle!” Upon being spoken to in such a manner, Gregor did not answer, but instead remained stationary in his place, as if the door hadn't been opened at all. If they had only, instead of letting this servant squander his time by bothering him whenever she was in the mood, commanded her to clean his room every day! Once in the early morning—a driving rain, perhaps already a sign of the coming spring, pummeled the window panes—as the servant began once more to use her particular form of conversation, Gregor was so bitter that he, as if preparing for an attack—and yet slowly and feebly—turned himself towards her. The servant, however, instead of fearing him, simply lifted high a stool found near the door and stood there with a wide-open mouth. Her intention was clear: to shut her mouth only when the chair in her hand had been slammed down on Gregor's back. “So, this won't go any further?” she asked as Gregor turned himself about again, and she calmly put the chair back in the corner.
Gregor now ate almost nothing. Only when he happened to pass by the prepared food did he, as a game, take a bite in his mouth, hold it there for hours, and then spit most of it out again. At first, he thought that it was dejection over the state of his room that prevented him from eating, but he became reconciled to the room's changes very quickly. They had become accustomed to putting things in this room that they couldn't put elsewhere, and there were now many such things because they had rented out a room of the apartment to three tenants. These stern gentlemen—all three had full beards, as Gregor had once been able to ascertain by looking when the door was opened a crack—were meticulously tidy, not only in their own room, but also, now that they had lodged here, in the entire household (especially in the kitchen). They didn't tolerate things that were useless or just dirty. In addition, they had, for the most part, brought their own furniture with them. For this reason, there were many things that had become superfluous; they really weren't saleable, and yet the family also wouldn't throw them out. All these things found their way into Gregor's room. There was even the box of ashes from the oven and the trashcan from the kitchen. Whatever was useless at present, the servant, who was always in a great hurry, simply hurled into Gregor's room; fortunately, Gregor, for the most part, saw only the item and the hand that held it. Perhaps the servant had the intention either to take out the items when she had the time and opportunity or to throw everything out at once; but, in actuality, the items remained there where they had first been thrown—except when Gregor wriggled through the junk pile and moved it, at first compelled to do so because there was no longer any free space to crawl, but later with growing pleasure, even though after such romping about, he was tired to the point of death and miserable as he sat for hours without moving.
Because the tenants sometimes also took their evening meal in the common room, the door to the room remained closed some evenings; Gregor quite easily refrained from opening the door, and often didn't take advantage of it when the door was opened some evenings, instead lying down in a dark corner of his room without the family noticing. One time, however, the servant had left the door to the living room open a little, and it remained open this far even when the tenants entered in the evening and turned the lights on. They sat down at the head of the table, where in former times, the father, the mother, and Gregor had eaten, unfolded their napkins, and took knives and forks into their hands. The mother immediately appeared in the door with a dish of meat, and, directly behind her, the sister with a dish stacked high with potatoes. Heavy steam rose from the food. The tenants bent down over the dishes set before them as if they wanted to examine it before eating, and the one sitting in the middle actually cut a piece of meat on the plate—the other two appearing to be regarded as authorities on the matter—obviously to determine whether it was tender enough or whether something should be sent back to the kitchen. He was satisfied, and mother and sister, who had looked on in suspense, heaved a sigh of relief and smiled.
The family itself ate in the kitchen. Despite this, the father, prior to going into the kitchen, came into the room and, hat in hand, made a circuit around the table. The tenants all rose and muttered something in their beards. Then, when they were alone, they ate in almost complete silence. It seemed strange to Gregor that, of all the myriad sounds of eating, it was always the noise of their chewing teeth that Gregor detected, as if, by this, it should be signified to him that one needed teeth to eat, and that even the finest toothless jaw was insufficient for the task. “I really have an appetite,” said Gregor as he worried, “but not for these things. How these tenants nourish themselves while I pass away!”
On this selfsame evening, the violin—Gregor didn't recall having heard it during this whole time—sounded from the kitchen. The tenants had already finished their evening meal; the middle one had produced a newspaper and set it before him; the two others had each received one page, and they now read while they leaned back and smoked. As the violin began to play, they were attentive; they rose and went on tiptoe to the hall door, where they remained standing up against one another. The family must have been able to hear the tenants from the kitchen, because the father called: “Is the playing perhaps unpleasant for the gentlemen? It will be called off at once.” “On the contrary,” said the gentleman in the middle, “wouldn't the young lady like to come in here to us and play in here, where it is much more comfortable and cozy?” “As you please,” cried the father, as if he were the violinist. The gentlemen stepped back into the room and waited. Soon the father came with the music stand, the mother with the music, and the sister with the violin. The sister calmly prepared everything so that she could perform; the parents, who had never before rented a room out and as a result were excessively polite towards the tenants, did not dare in any way to sit on their own chairs; the father leaned on the door, with his right hand between two buttons on the pleats of his livery, but the mother accepted a chair offered by one of the gentlemen and sat where the gentleman had happened to placed the stool, that is, off in a remote corner.
The sister began to play; the mother and father each from their side followed the movements of her hands with their eyes. Gregor, drawn by the playing, had risked coming forward a little bit more; his head was already in the living room. He hardly wondered at the fact that he had recently had so little consideration for the others; earlier, he had been quite proud of this solicitude. He would have had much more reason right now to hide himself, as the dust that lay over the whole of his room and which flew about at the slightest movement now covered him completely as well; he dragged threads, hair, and food scraps with him on his back and sides; he was far too indifferent about everything to lay on his back and rub himself on the carpet as he used to do multiple times during the day. In spite of these circumstances, he had no inhibitions about moving forward a little bit over the immaculate floor of the living room.
At any rate, nobody paid any attention to him. The family was completely engrossed by the violin playing; the tenants, on the other hand, who had placed themselves behind the music stand (far too close behind the sister) so that they could see all of the musical notes, must have disturbed the sister, and soon drew near the window, bowing their heads and speaking in low tones with one another, where they remained as the father anxiously observed them. It quite clearly appeared as if they were disappointed in their assumption that they were going to hear a beautiful or entertaining violin performance, had had quite enough of the entire presentation, and now allowed themselves to be disturbed only out of politeness. The way that they all blew the smoke of their cigars up in the air out of their noses and mouths especially brought one to the conclusion that they were rather annoyed. All the same, his sister was playing so beautifully. Her face was turned to the side, and her gaze, scrutinizing and full of sadness, followed the lines of notes. Gregor crawled a little bit further forwards and held his head close to the floor in order to meet her gaze, if possible. Was he an animal, that music would so move him? It was as if the way to the unknown nourishment that he longed for was shown to him. He was determined to get as far as the sister, to tug at her skirts, and thereby to express that he would like her to come into his room with her violin, as nobody here thought that her playing was worth their time (although he thought it was worthwhile). He did not want to let her out of his room, at least not as long as he lived; his terrifying form should for the first time be useful as he would hiss back at the attackers from all doors of his room at once…and yet the sister shouldn't be forced to stay with him, but instead, remain of her own free will: she should sit near him on the couch, bend her ear down to him, and he would then confide to her that he had every intention of sending her to the conservatory and that, if this unfortunate event had not happened in the interim, he would have told her all this last Christmas—Christmas had already gone by?—without listening to any contrary arguments. After this clarification, the sister would erupt in a fit of emotional tears, and Gregor would lift himself up to her shoulders and kiss her throat, which she had left uncovered without a band or collar since she started going to work.
“Mr. Samsa!” cried the tenant in the middle to the father as he pointed, without speaking another word, with his index finger at Gregor, who was moving himself slowly forward. The violin fell silent as the tenant in the middle smiled at his friends and, shaking his head once, looked at Gregor again. The father appeared to consider it more important to calm the tenants than to drive away Gregor, despite the fact that the tenants were hardly upset and that Gregor entertained them more than the violin performance. He hurried to them and sought with open arms to force them back into their room, while, at the same time, trying to obstruct their view of Gregor with his body. They were actually a little angry at this point, although one no longer knew whether it was due to the father's conduct or whether it was the fact that they just now realized that they possessed a neighbor such as Gregor in the next room. They requested explanations from the father, raised their hands, pulled at their beards in restlessness, and retreated to their rooms only slowly. Meanwhile the sister, initially feeling quite lost after the sudden disruption and disintegration of the performance, letting her hands hang motionless with the violin and bow while she had looked at the music as if she were still playing, had overcome her confusion and had laid the instrument on the lap of the mother (who had sat down on her chair because she was short of breath); the sister then ran into the neighboring room, which the tenants were quickly approaching because of the father's pressure. One could see how, under the sister's proficient hands, the sheets and pillows from the bed flew into the air and arranged themselves. Before the gentleman had even reached the room, she was finished with the bedcovers and had slipped out. The father appeared once again to have been seized by his stubbornness, as he forgot every courtesy that he owed his tenants; he pushed forward and pushed again, until the middle gentleman, already in the door, stamped his foot with a crash and thereby brought the father to a halt. “I hereby declare,” said the tenant, raising his hand and searching out the mother and sister as well with his gaze, “that upon consideration of the revolting conditions”—at this he spat resolutely on the floor—“that prevail among this family and in this apartment, I am giving notice of the immediate termination of my occupancy. I will, of course, pay not even the least amount for the days I have lived here; on the contrary, I will contemplate whether or not I will file against you some sort of plea, which—believe me—will be substantiated very easily.” He then became silent and looked directly in front of him as if he expected something. Actually, his two friends chimed in with the words: “We also immediately give our notice.” Upon that, the middle one grabbed the door handle and slammed the door shut.
The father fumbled about with his hands, staggered to his chair, and fell into it; he looked as if he were stretching out for his usual evening nap, but the way his head deeply nodded, as if totally slack, indicated that he could hardly be sleeping. Gregor had been lying still at the same spot where the tenants had caught him. He was too weak to move because of his disappointment over the fact that his plans had gone awry; he was also weak, possibly as a result of his extreme hunger. He feared, in the next few moments, that it was positively certain that everything would flare up and collapse upon him, and he waited. He wasn't even startled when the violin, held by the mother's trembling hands, fell from her lap and sent out a sonorous tone.
“Dearest parents,” said the sister as she struck the table with her hand as an introduction, “this can go no further. If you perhaps don't recognize that, I recognize it. I will not pronounce the name of my brother in the presence of this monster, and will say merely this about it: we must be rid of it. We have attempted every method humanly possible to serve and tolerate it, and I believe that nobody can blame us in the least.” “She is a thousand times right,” interjected the father. The mother, who could never manage to catch her breath, had a maniacal look in her eyes as she held her hand up and began to muffle her coughs. The sister hurried to mother and felt her forehead. The father appeared to have been lead to contemplate certain things by the sister's words; he sat upright, played with his servant's cap between the plates that the tenants had left on the table from the evening meal, and looked from time to time at the motionless Gregor.
“We must try to get rid of it,” the sister now said exclusively to the father because the mother, in her coughing, heard nothing. “It's doing both of you in; I can see it coming. If people have to work as hard as we all do, they can't endure this endless torment at home as well. I can't do it either.” And she burst into tears that were so strong that they flowed down onto the mother's face, from which the sister wiped the tears with mechanical motions of her hands.
“Child,” said the father with compassion and obvious sympathy, “what then should we do?”
The sister just shrugged her shoulders as a sign of the helplessness that, in contrast to her former sureness, had seized her while she cried.
“If he understood us,” said the father half-questioningly; the sister, in her tears, shook her hand fiercely to signify that this was unthinkable.
“If he understood us,” repeated the father, who, by shutting his eyes, admitted to the sister's conviction regarding the impossibility of the matter, “then it might be possible to come to an agreement with him. But as it stands…”
“He must be sent away,” cried the sister; “that is the only way. You just have to try to banish the thought that it's Gregor. The fact that we have believed this for so long is our true misfortune. How can it really be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long recognized that it isn't possible for humans to live together with such a beast and would have gone away of his own free will. Then we would have had no brother, but would have lived our lives and honored his memory. But this animal persecutes us, drives away the tenants, and evidently will occupy the entire apartment and let us spend the night in the alleyway. See, father,” she suddenly screamed, “he's starting again now!” And, with a horror that Gregor couldn't understand at all, the sister even abandoned the mother, suddenly pushing away from her chair as if she would rather sacrifice the mother than remain in Gregor's presence, and hurried behind the father, who, only worked up because of her behavior, also stood up and half-raised his arms as if to protect the sister.
But Gregor hadn't any ideas or intentions of causing anxiety for anyone, let alone his sister. He had just started to turn himself around so that he could wander back into his room, and this actually looked quite strange, as he, in his wounded condition, had to facilitate his difficult rotation by raising and then dropping his head many times on the floor. He stopped and looked around. His good intentions seemed to have been recognized; the horror had only been temporary. Now they all silently and sorrowfully looked at him. The mother, with her legs crossed and stretched out in front of her, sat in her chair, with her eyes almost shut from exhaustion; the father and the sister sat near one another, with the sister having laid her hand around the father's neck.
“Now, maybe I'll be allowed to turn myself around,” thought Gregor as he began his work once more. He couldn't suppress his wheezing at the effort and had to rest now and then.
In addition, nobody was urging him onwards; it was all left up to him. When he had finished turning around, he immediately began to traipse directly back. He was amazed at the great distance separating him from his room, and he could hardly comprehend how he, in his weakness and almost without noticeable effort, had traced the same path only a short time ago. Concentrating the whole time on crawling quickly, he hardly paid attention to the fact that no word, no cry from his family disrupted him.
He first turned his head when he was already in the door, although he didn't turn it fully because he felt his neck getting stiff; at any rate, he saw that even now nothing behind him had changed, except that the sister was standing up. He last glanced fleetingly at the mother, who was now completely asleep. He was hardly inside his room when the door was swiftly shut, bolted, and locked. Gregor was so startled at the sudden noise behind him that his little legs buckled. It was the sister who had hurried like that. She already stood upright and had then waited, quickly springing forward (Gregor hadn't even heard her coming), calling out “Finally!” to the parents while she turned the key in the lock.
“And now?” Gregor asked himself as he looked around in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer even budge. He wasn't too amazed at this; it actually seemed unnatural to him that, until now, he could actually get around with these thin little legs. Moreover, he felt relatively comfortable. It was true that his whole body hurt, but it seemed to him as if the pains gradually grew slighter and slighter and that they would eventually go away completely. He now hardly felt the rotten apple in his back and the inflammation around it, which was now covered in soft dust. He remembered his family with affection and love. His opinion of it all, which was that he had to disappear, was even more resolute than his sister's, if such a thing were possible. He stayed in this state of vapid and peaceful contemplation until the clock tower struck the third hour of the morning. He lived to see the beginning of the general illumination outside the window. Then, apart from his will, his head sank down completely, and his last breath streamed weakly out of his nostrils.
In the early morning the servant came—with sheer strength and speed she slammed shut all the doors in just the way that they had previously requested she avoid, and so her coming made quiet sleep in the apartment no longer possible—and at her customary short visit with Gregor, she initially found nothing exceptional. She thought he was lying there intentionally motionless, trying to play the insulted victim; she believed him capable of all sorts of intrigues. Since she happened to have the long broom in hand, she tried to tickle Gregor with it from the doorway. When this also failed to produce results, she was annoyed and poked Gregor gently, and only when she had shoved him from his place without any opposition did it draw her attention. When she soon recognized what had actually happened, her eyes grew large, she let out a low whistle, and, not waiting long, she tore open the door of the bedroom and called out in a loud voice into the darkness: “Everybody check it out, it croaked; there it lies, it's a stiff!”
The married Samsa couple sat upright in their marriage bed and had to force themselves to overcome their fright of the servant before they understood her announcement. Then, however, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa rapidly climbed out of bed, both on their own side; Mr. Samsa threw the bedcovers over his shoulder, Mrs. Samsa came out only in her gown, and so they entered Gregor's room. In the meantime, the door of the living room, where Grete had slept since the tenants had departed, was also opened; Grete was fully clothed as if she hadn't slept at all, a fact to which her pale face also seemed to attest. “Dead?” said Mrs. Samsa, and she cast a questioning look at the servant, in spite of the fact that she could still examine everything herself and could understand what had happened even without examination. “That's what I think,” said the servant who, to prove it, shoved Gregor's body a fair distance to the side. Mrs. Samsa moved forward as if she wanted to stop the broom, but she didn't. “At last,” said Mr. Samsa, “now we can thank God.” He crossed himself, and the three women followed suit.
Grete, who hadn't taken her eyes off the corpse, said: “Just look at how emaciated he was. He hadn't eaten in such a long time. The food came out of here exactly as it had come in.” Gregor's corpse was actually extremely flat and dry, and one really began to notice it only now because he wasn't raised on those little legs, and no other distractions existed.
“Come in here with us for a little while, Grete,” said Mrs. Samsa with a melancholy smile, and Grete went behind the parents into the bedroom, although not without looking back at the corpse. The servant shut the door and opened wide the window. Even though it was early morning, the air was fresh and mildly warm. It was already the end of March.
The three tenants stepped out of their room and looked in surprise for their breakfast; they had been forgotten. “Where is the breakfast?” the middle gentleman asked of the servant sullenly. She, however, put her finger to her lips and quickly and silently waved to the gentlemen that they should come in Gregor's room. They also came and stood, with their hands in the pockets of their somewhat worn little jackets, around Gregor's corpse in the room that had already become bright.
Then the door of the bedroom opened and Mr. Samsa appeared in his livery; on one arm was his wife, and on the other, his daughter. They were all a little tear-stained; Grete hid her face from time to time on the father's arm.
“Get out of my apartment immediately!” said Mr. Samsa as he pointed at the door without letting go of the women. “How exactly do you mean that?” said the middle gentleman, somewhat shaken and smiling sweetly. The other two kept their hands behind their backs and kept rubbing them against one another as if in gleeful anticipation of a significant argument that would, in any event, turn out to be good for them. “I mean it exactly as I have said it,” answered Mr. Samsa as he went in a straight line with his two female escorts to the tenants. They at first stood still and looked at the floor, as if things inside their head were rearranging themselves. “Then we will go,” he then said, looking at Mr. Samsa as if, suddenly overcome by humility, he desired further approval for even this resolution. Mr. Samsa only nodded to him curtly several times with wide eyes.
At this, the gentleman immediately went, with long strides, to the hall; his two friends had already been listening for a while with motionless hands and now hopped directly after him, as if worried that Mr. Samsa could step into the hallway before they did and interfere when they joined up with their leader. All three of them took their hats from the coat rack in the hall, took their canes from the cane holder, bowed silently, and quit the apartment. In what turned out to be completely groundless suspicion, Mr. Samsa and the two women stepped out on the porch, leaned on the railing, and watched as the three gentlemen descended the stairs very slowly but surely, disappeared at every floor where the stairs turned, and after a few moments came out once again. The deeper they managed to go, the more the Samsa family lost interest in them, and when a butcher's apprentice walked proudly to them and then went high above their heads on the stairs with a basket on his head, Mr. Samsa and the two women deserted the railing, turned around, and then all, as if relieved, went back into the apartment.
They decided that day to spend time relaxing and going for a walk; not only had they earned this break from work, but they absolutely needed it. And so they sat at the table and wrote three letters of excuse, Mr. Samsa to his manager, Mrs. Samsa to her customer, and Grete to her supervisor at the store. While they were writing, the servant came in to say that she was leaving because her morning work was done. The three writers at first just nodded without looking up, and only when the servant would still not go away, did they look up in annoyance. “Well?” asked Mr. Samsa. The servant stood smiling in the doorway, as if she had something auspicious to announce but would do so only if she were specifically asked about it. The small ostrich feather in her hat which was not quite upright (and which had annoyed Mr. Samsa during the entire time she served them) swayed gently in all directions. “Well then, what is it you actually want?” asked Mrs. Samsa, whom the servant usually respected. “Ahem,” answered the servant, who couldn't continue speaking right then because she stood there cheerfully smiling. “Okay, so, about that trash that needed to be gotten rid of, you guys don't worry about that. It's done taken care of.” Mrs. Samsa and Grete bent down over their letters as if they wanted to continue writing; Mr. Samsa, who noticed that the servant now wanted to begin describing everything explicitly, promptly nipped that in the bud with an outstretched hand. When she wasn't allowed to narrate, she remembered what a great hurry she was in, and, obviously insulted, called out “Adjoo, folks,” turned around fiercely, and left the apartment with a violent slamming of the door.
“She'll be let go this evening,” said Mr. Samsa, who received neither from his wife nor daughter any reply because it appeared that the servant had disrupted the tranquility that they had just gained once again. They rose, went to the window, and remained there with their arms around each other. Mr. Samsa turned his chair in their direction and observed them quietly for a little while. Then he called: “Come now. Let's finally put aside the old things. And let's also have a little consideration for me.” The women obeyed him immediately, hastened to him, caressed him, and quickly concluded their letters.
Then all three of them left the apartment together (something that they had not done in months) and took the tram into the open air of the city. Warm sunshine permeated the car in which they all sat. They discussed with one another their prospects for the future as they leaned back comfortably in their seats, and found upon closer examination that they were by no means bad, as the employment of all three of them, which they had not previously asked each other about at all, was favorable and (especially in the future) looked very promising. The most notable immediate improvement of their situation would arise from a change of apartments; they now wanted to take one that was smaller, cheaper, in a better location, and, most importantly, was more practical than their current one that had been chosen by Gregor. As they talked pleasantly about these things, it occurred to Mr. and Mrs. Samsa almost at the same time that their daughter, despite all the recent difficulties that had made her cheeks pale, was growing livelier all the time and had blossomed to become a beautiful and voluptuous young woman. Growing quieter, they almost unconsciously communicated with each other through their glances, thinking that it was soon going to be time to look for a worthy man for her. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when, as they reached their destination of their trip, the daughter rose up first and stretched her young body.
Here, "young body" can be understood as a new or newly matured body, indicating that Grete has grown up and come into her own as a woman. Over the course of this short novel, Grete has undergone a transformation of her own, albeit a natural one, that sees her go from the sad, weeping girl of Part I to the vibrant, beautiful young woman of Part III. Her metamorphosis serves as a counterpoint to Gregor's, reminding the reader that drastic changes like his aren't uncommon, but that they tend to happen slowly, imperceptibly, almost as if they weren't happening at all.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In Part I, we learned that Gregor's room had three doors in it, and that his family could speak to each other through it, as if he never existed. Here, we learn that Gregor himself chose this apartment, and that by doing so he placed himself in the very center of the family's life, as if his room were a heart that pumped blood into their life together. This choice speaks to his desire to provide for his family; later, it becomes the source of his dissatisfaction. By pointing this out at the very end, Kafka suggests that Gregor brought this whole tragedy on himself.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Recall that in Part II, Mr. Samsa was described as "gathering his escorts" around him while walking with Gregor and Mrs. Samsa on Sunday. In replacing Gregor with Grete, Kafka effectively edits him out of the family, stripping him both of his position (as Mr. Samsa's favorite child) and of his importance. Here, his entire family begins to lean on each other, as if to say that they never needed him, and that his sacrifices mean nothing to them.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
The servant attempts to say "adieu," the French word for goodbye, but mangles the word very badly, further emphasizing to the reader her lack of education and sophistication. For her to simply say adjoo after finding Gregor's body proves that, in spite of her playfulness in earlier scenes, she never particularly cared about Gregor, and his presence was just an amusing diversion in an otherwise humdrum job.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In the end, the servant asks a stranger to take care of Gregor's body, which is here referred to as "trash" so that everyone can talk about it without having to talk about it. Gregor's family doesn't want to bother with getting rid of him and certainly won't prepare a funeral, making this final act (of being taken out like trash) the one that makes Gregor's transformation from human to nothing complete.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Recall that when Grete was playing the violin earlier the parents also took their own sides, flanking her as she played. Here, Kafka implies that, because they each have their own side, they're divided in their thoughts and feelings about Gregor, as evidenced by the fact that the mother wanted to clean his room and couldn't imagine getting rid of him.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Of all the characters in the novel, the old woman is the only one who ascribes him any real agency. Unlike his family, who think of him as a monster with no connection to the man they once knew, she believes that he has a personality and that he can, like a person, play dead, pretend to be offended, hold grudges, and respond like he would as a man. Her playfulness may be demeaning, but it's also the only real human connection he had.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In Part II, Kafka used the image of Gregor being "nailed down" by the apple his father threw at him to allude to Christ's crucifixion. Here, he alludes to the hour of Christ's death (three o'clock) to further equate Gregor with the martyr and to suggest that he's sacrificing himself in order so that his family might have a better life.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Notice that Kafka doesn't use the word "die" here, instead suggesting that Gregor should disappear, both from his family's life and from the world in general. It's as if he should cease to exist, or to have never even existed, so that they can forget this all ever happened, as his mother wanted to while they were moving the furniture.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Grete seems to forget the fact that they've been keeping Gregor locked up and that, without their help, there would be no leaving the apartment; he certainly can't do so of his own free will with the father hissing at him to get back in his room. It's possible that by "go away" she means to die or pass away, but more likely she expects this bug-like creature to go live with the bugs in the wild. She doesn't, of course, stop to think how ridiculous this is.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Many things have fallen in the course of this novel: the violin, the spilt coffee, the mother when she tripped over her skirts, the attorney who had to catch himself on the stairs, and Gregor himself, falling from the ceiling. This act of falling is akin to forgetting one's self, as when the mother allows the violin to fall from her lap, which Grete has placed there carelessly, as if forgetting how beautiful her music is. Indeed, it's as if Grete has forgotten herself entirely.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Note the use of the word "mechanical" to describe the movement of her hands (German: "mechanischen Handbewegungen"). This word suggests that Grete has had a lot of practice wiping away tears (both her mother's and her own) and that this might not be a genuine or a real display of affection, but rather a hollow performance of one, as if she's pretending to care for her parents to get what she wants.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Grete finally strips Gregor of his remaining humanity by referring to him as an "it" (in German, "es" or "ihm," depending on case, used only in reference to things or animals). In Part I, Grete was Gregor's ally, but has since come to begrudge him the care and service she has provided to him and now wants to be rid of him forever (though how she will do this and how far she's willing to go remains to be seen).— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Kafka never explicitly says when Gregor's metamorphosis took place and doesn't give an exact timeline of events in the novel, but it would appear that several months have passed, if not half a year, and that in that time Gregor has lost touch with the outside world so completely that he isn't even fully aware of the seasons. All we ever hear of the weather is that it rains. Perhaps that places this moment in spring; but perhaps it's still winter. It's impossible to tell.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In the early 20th century, a woman's neck was generally covered by a collar or a scarf as a sign of modesty, but women in the work force, who weren't typically thought of as ladies, sometimes went without it. Grete's change in wardrobe should be understood as another kind of transformation, one that traces her development from a young, often thoughtless woman to an adult who's making her way in the world.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Kafka asks the central question of the novel: what does it mean to be human, and does Gregor's transformation ever really strip him of his humanity? It's true that many animals, including bugs, are capable of creating and understanding their own kinds of music (birds, crickets, and whales being the prime examples), but it's rare for an animal to understand and appreciate human music. Ultimately, Kafka doesn't answer this question using music, and the reader has to figure it out for themselves.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
This dust is a symbol of Gregor's insignificance, as he's forgotten and pushed aside by his family, relegated to this room where dust cakes on his body, as if he's an old, unwanted piece of furniture. It's worth noting that dust, in itself, is composed of shed skin and particles that collect in the air, and that the dust in this room was likely created by Gregor himself.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
The Samsas have flanked their talented daughter, standing to either side of her, like parents in the wings of an auditorium or a theatre, in order to watch her perform for their tenants, who are treated with the utmost deference and respect. Note also that Grete didn't originally intend to play for the tenants and that, more likely, she was asked to play by or offered to play for her parents, who would like a little bit of entertainment in their very exhausting lives.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Notice the way in which both the tenant and the mother relegate her to a corner and, thus, to a place of insignificance. In the household's shifting power dynamics, the mother, who doesn't leave the house to work, and whose only real skill is in sewing, has become perhaps the least powerful and least important member of the family, except in her occasional desire to care for Gregor and make him comfortable.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
The word "livery" typically refers to uniforms that imply rank, as with the position of a military officer, a servant in a household, or, as in the father's case, an employee at a bank. Often, the word "livery" has a stately connotation, as if to indicate that the uniform is in some way rich and ostentatious. Here, Kafka refers to it as "livery" not because of its grandeur but because of the pomp with which the father wears it at all times.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In Part III, Kafka places great emphasis on the ways in which Gregor is denigrated in his situation, emasculated by the servant, and feeling here as if he's being mocked by the tenants and, by extension, by all of humanity. His jaws, remember, were proven in Part I to be strong enough to turn the key in the lock, so there's no reason for Gregor to feel insecure; and yet he's been treated so terribly that he can't help internalizing the negative criticism.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
These three tenants are a peculiar bunch and appear often to act in perfect unison. Kafka juxtaposes their similarity and their simultaneity of movement with the discord present between the three remaining members of the Samsa family, of which Gregor is no longer really a part. This juxtaposition presents an image of what the Samsas want (harmony) even as it throws their present troubles into sharp relief.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
In the course of the novel, Gregor's room has gone from a place that was devoid of privacy to one of illness and isolation and now, finally, to a trash dump where unwanted things are thrown in and forgotten (the implication here being that Gregor, too, is unwanted). Inevitably, of course, the trash will have to be taken out, and Gregor along with it. In this way, the state of the room becomes a symbol of Gregor's life.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Throughout the story, Gregor has been emasculated and stripped of his power by the other characters, who have taken advantage of him, treated him like a pest, willfully injured him, and almost starved him to death. In this scene, the one character he should've been able to get the better of (the lowly servant) completes his emasculation by calling him names and threatening to kill him if he fights back.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Kafka indicates that the old woman is uneducated and of a low social class through her use of simple colloquialisms like "C'mon over here" and "y'a" (in the original German, this line reads, “Kommmal herüber, alter Mistkäfer!”). Interestingly, this old woman is the only character who takes Gregor's condition in stride, but it's this very comfort and familiarity that makes him dislike her.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Recall that in Part I, Gregor's father hissed at him like this to force him back into his room. In that scene, the father was characterized as an animalistic, brutish man, the kind of monster who maims his own son with an apple. Here, Gregor hisses, furious at them for not closing the door, which he has hitherto wanted open. Kafka uses the repetition of this sound to suggest that Gregor's transformation into a bug-like creature is now complete.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
This sensitivity isn't meant to imply any sympathy or understanding of Gregor's situation but instead characterizes his family as being newly touchy, overly-sensitive, quick to take offense and to, as Grete does, burst into tears. Their sensitivity in this sense is really an expression of their vulnerability and the emotional and psychological strain that they're under, trying to support themselves and take care of Gregor.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
As Grete becomes more and more independent, and more involved in the family's financial affairs, she has less and less time to care for Gregor, and what was once an act of love and affection (or, as Gregor put it, "youthful thoughtlessness") now seems merely a chore, as she sweeps out his room in only the most cursory fashion.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Remember that in Part II Gregor clung desperately to his humanity, pressing himself against the picture of that woman and clinging to the furniture they wanted to remove. Here, he's happy to be rid of his memories, not because he has lost his humanity but because he has given up hope of living at all. This gladness in the face of misery feels particularly macabre considering the apple in his back and foreshadows the ending of the novel.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
Here we see the Samsas establish a kind of normalcy and a routine that didn't seem possible in Parts I and II, and which appears to only be possible now because of Gregor's deteriorating health. It's as if, as his condition worsens, the family's situation gets steadily more stable (a trend that doesn't bode well for Gregor).— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor
"It didn't cut any ice" is a colloquialism meaning that something made no impression on someone or didn't matter to them. In this context, the translator also uses it to imply that the father is in essence a cold man, one with little feeling or affection for others, as we can see here in his obstinance and his distaste for Gregor.— Sinead, Owl Eyes Editor