The Metamorphosis


Chapter One Summary

The Metamorphosis begins with Gregor Samsa waking up and finding that he has turned into a gigantic bug overnight.  He examines his body and realizes that he isn’t dreaming, since his room and surroundings have stayed the same.

            Surprisingly, Gregor does not start to worry about his condition.  Rather, he decides not to think about it at all and instead starts thinking about how much he hates his job and being a salesman – he is constantly traveling and it is tiresome.  He wants to quit but must pay back a debt that his parents have, and decides that despite having turned into a bug he is still going to try to get up and go to work.  Despite his change of appearance, his mindset is still the same and he fully intends to act as though he is still a human.

            Gregor’s family first realizes that he may not be well when he misses his first train and has not yet gotten out of bed.  While his parents only seem mildly concerned that he has not yet gotten up, his sister Grete is the most anxious.  It is as though she can already tell that something is seriously wrong with Gregor.  To his mother, his illness is not something to be scared of (at this point in the novel), while his father is mainly concerned that Gregor won't be able to work and bring home money for the family.  Grete, however, is on the verge of tears before anyone knows about Gregor's transformation.

            It takes a great deal of effort from Gregor to get his new body out of bed.  He realizes that it will be very easy to hurt himself, as he has not yet learned how to control his form.  As he is trying to get out of bed, the office manager from his company comes to the house and the excitement this brings to Gregor finally gets him out of bed.  The manager inquires as to why Gregor has not yet left his room and his father attempts to persuade the manager that something really must be wrong with Gregor, because otherwise he has always been very dedicated and would have gone to work already.  Gregor attempts to explain himself to his boss, but then realizes that they cannot understand his voice – it has changed along with his body.  This is the first time that his parents start to become truly afraid; prior to hearing him, they only assumed that there was something wrong with Gregor.

            After some struggling, he manages to unlock the door and open it; his family and the manager are shocked to see him and his father immediately chases him back into the bedroom.  Gregor again tries to tell his boss that he will get ready to go to work right away and asks for his support in the office, but his boss once again cannot comprehend what he is saying.  His family and boss are startled by him coming towards them and trying to speak, and Gregor’s manager immediately leaves the house in terror without waiting for any further explanations.  His mother is also shocked, and Gregor has to turn and run from his father back into his room, injuring himself in the process.  Kafka ends Chapter 1 with the indication that Gregor's troubles will only increase in the future, as his family is not accepting of his new form.