Part 1 & 2 Comprehension/Analysis Questions
Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences. You must use a piece of textual evidence in each response to fully develop your answer. These questions are only about Part 1 & 2 of The Metamorphosis.
What type of narration (first person, third person, etc.) is used in The Metamorphosis? How is this an effective way of telling Gregor’s story?
Gregor’s narration is in third person, meaning that the narrator is not a character but has great knowledge about the events that take place in the novella. The narrator also describes the main character’s thoughts and feelings in length in his perspective. “...as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous vermin.” (Kafka 5). The reader is able to feel that Samsa is aware that after waking up from anxious dreams, he has turned into an insect. The reader can also know from Samsa’s thoughts that he is aware of his transformation into a monstrous vermin. The story is told effectively because the reader is able to get a first hand experience of Gregor Samsa’s change at the same time as him.
What is Gregor’s occupation? How does his occupation affect his life?
Gregor is a travelling salesman and he hates it along with his co-workers. He does not like this job because it requires so much effort but he is doing this because he has to pay off his parents’ debts and care about his family. 'O God,' he thought, 'what a demanding job I've chosen! Day in, day out, on the road. The stresses of selling are much greater than the work going on at head office, and, in addition to that, I have to cope with the problems of travelling, the worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which 3 never come from the heart. To hell with it all!' (Kafka 5). The reader can tell that Kafka is stressed because of his job. It is clear that he has changed into an insect, but that is the least of his worries at this point. Gregor Samsa rants about how he is always on the move and can never make any good or permanent relationships and from this the reader concludes that he is lonely because of the job he has to do.
What is Gregor’s main concern at this point in his life?
Gregor has realised that he overslept and did not hear the alarm, which might make him miss his train to work. His main concern is getting to work on time so that his boss will not fire him. “In any case, right now I have to get up. My train leaves at five o'clock ...And even if he caught the train, there was no avoiding a blow-up with the boss.' (Kafka 6). Unlike most humans, Gregor Samsa has turned into a bug and yet that is the least of his concerns. He wants to get to work so bad in order to be able to pay off his parents’ debts because that responsibility is upon him and he cares for his family.
How does Gregor feel about each member of his family? (Mrs. Samsa, Mr. Samsa, Grete)
Being the breadwinner for the family, Gregor Samsa cares so much about his family but he sometimes feels like the love is one sided and he is not appreciated enough. He had a good relationship with his sister Grete and even worried about her when he was the one who transformed into a bug. “Why didn't his sister go to the others? She'd probably just gotten up out of bed now and hadn't even started to get dressed yet. Then why was she crying?” (Kafka 9). Gregor respects Mrs. Samsa his mother, as we can see that he answers her calmly even when he has turned into a bug. “Yes, yes, thank you mother. I'm getting up right away.” (Kafka 5) Mr. Kafka does not care about what happens to Gregor and hopes that he could just die. “No request of Gregor's was of any use; no request would even be understood. No matter how willing he was to turn his head respectfully, his father just stomped all the harder with his feet.” (Kafka 15). If only Gregor’s family showed as much care as he did, he would be happier and would do the same for them if they had turned into a bug.
What are some possible themes that you have already seen throughout Part 1 of The Metamorphosis? How are these themes shown? (Remember a theme is NOT one word)
Identity changes with change in physical features and results into isolation. Gregor is first resistant to the fact that he has turned into a monstrous vermin and thinks that he can still be the breadwinner of the family. His job is his identity and is what defines him because it is his major concern and not the fact that he has turned into a bug. When his family members knock at his door and realise that he is still at home and not at work, they are in shock because he is usually away from home and travelling because of his job. “Then his father gave him one really strong liberating push from behind, and he scurried, bleeding severely, far into the interior of his room. The door was slammed shut with the cane, and finally it was quiet.” (Kafka 17). Gregor is now locked in his room and shooed away whenever he tries to speak to any of them, he is isolated from both his family and his job because of the big transformation. The fact that Gregor’s significance in the family has changed hits him later on when his father even gets a job and he is the new breadwinner of the family.
Give two character traits to describe Gregor. Think back to the STEAL method you learned while reading The Glass Menagerie. Find a quote to support each character trait chosen.
Mrs. Samsa’s reaction when Gregor opens the door for the first time leaves her in not only shock but also causes her to pass out. “At that his mother screamed all over again, hurried from the table, and collapsed into the arms of his father, who was rushing towards her.” ( Kafka 15). Whenever she looks at him, she passes out because his metamorphosis is too much for her to fathom. In his state, he can’t help but wonder in pride and think about how he provided a beautiful life for his family. “...gazing into the darkness, felt a great pride that he was able to provide a life like that in such a nice home for his sister and parents.” He is also concerned about how it will be without him working, asking himself whether it will be a horrible and frightening end, which shows that he cares for his family.
Who has assumed most responsibility for Gregor’s life? What does she do for him? How does this make Gregor feel?
Grete has assumed most responsibility for Gregor’s life, making sure to take feeds for him and to clean up after his mess due to eating like the animal he is. Gregor very remained close to his sister because she was the only one who had the courage to enter the room and tidy it up. “If Gregor had only been able to speak to his sister and thank her for everything that she had to do for him, he would have tolerated her service more easily.” (Kafka 22). Immediately she entered the room, Grete closed the door behind her so that no one would suffer at his sight and opening the window as though she was being suffocated. Despite the awkwardness he noticed from her actions whenever she entered the room, Gregor was grateful towards her but he could not help but notice his parents questioning her whether there was any slight improvement.
Why does the Samsa’s cook ask Mrs. Samsa to let her go?
She is scared because Gregor has transformed into an insect and it is not pleasant. She does not want to have to keep working around Gregor anymore. “And on the very first day the maid had fallen to her knees and begged Gregor’s mother to let her go without delay. It was not very clear how much she knew of what had happened but she left within a quarter of an hour tearfully thanking Gregor’s mother for the dismissal as if she had done her an enormous service. She even swore emphatically not to tell anyone what had happened even though no one asked that of her.”(Kafka 20). Thanking Mrs. Kafka for the dismissal is unusual because most people would rather ask for a higher pay than leave the job when faced with a difficult situation, but with this case the maid may be excused.
Why did Gregor become a traveling salesman?
Since Mr. Samsa lost his job and his business failed, Gregor Samsa became a travelling salesman in order to be able to pay off his parents’ debts to his boss. Despite Samsa’s hatred for his job, he has to stay because he is the breadwinner of the family. “If I didn't hold back for my parents' sake, I'd have quit ages ago. I would've gone to the boss and told him just what I think from the bottom of my heart. He would've fallen right off his desk!...Once I've got together the money to pay off my parents' debt to him—that should take another five or six years—I'll do it for sure. Then I'll make the big break.” (Kafka 4). He is just taking the job in order to be able to provide for his family. When he undergoes his metamorphosis, Gregor can no longer do this and he can’t help but wonder what will happen to his family because he has stopped working.
How do the Samsa’s expect to live now that Gregor cannot work?
There are rumors that Gregor has been stealing money from his workplace, and Gregor has been getting lots of extra money. However, this money is not going to last considering the fact that both Mr. and Mrs. Samsa are out of work because they are elderly and tired. “At the moment, however, this money was not nearly sufficient to permit the family to live on the interest payments. Perhaps it would be enough to maintain the family for one or at most two years, that's all.” (Kafka 21). Gregor admitted that his family does not really show so much gratitude to his efforts, but he is also concerned about their well being. On the first day of Gregor’s transformation, Mr. Samsa explains to the family that their financial situation is not so bleak, but that they all need to find work.
In what ways are Gregor’s physical abilities declining?
Gregor now takes no pleasure in fresh food, he used to like milk but now he hates it. He now took pleasure in things like old half-rotten vegetables, bones from an evening meal covered with a white sauce which had almost solidified, some raisins and almonds, a slice of dry bread, and a slice of salted bread smeared with butter all dipped in water. “The fresh food, by contrast, didn't taste good to him. He couldn't bear the smell and even carried the things he wanted to eat a little distance away.” (Kafka 20). Gregor now likes to crawl around on his furniture, sometimes hanging from the ceiling, and staring through his window only wishing to join the outside world. “He found it difficult to bear lying quietly during the night, and soon eating no longer gave him the slightest pleasure. So for diversion he acquired the habit of crawling back and forth across the walls and ceiling. He was especially fond of hanging from the ceiling. The experience was quite different from lying on the floor. It was easier to breathe, a slight vibration went through his body, and in the midst of the almost happy amusement which Gregor found up there, it could happen that, to his own surprise, he let go and hit the floor.” (Kafka 26). As Gregor is adapting to the metamorphosis, he finds it better to live as an insect and he figures out that neglecting his human physical qualities is better for his freedom.