Franz Kafka (1883 - 1924)
The Metamorphose - Part One
hast mich letzthin einmal gefragt, warum ich behaupte,
ich hätte Furcht vor Dir
two -- part
AS GREGOR SAMSA awoke
one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a
gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when
he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into
stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position
and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully
thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.
What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream. His room, a regular human
bedroom, only rather too small, lay quiet between the four familiar walls. Above
the table on which a collection of cloth samples was unpacked and spread out-Samsa
was a commercial traveler-hung the picture which he had recently cut out of an
illustrated magazine and put into a pretty gilt frame. It showed a lady, with
a fur cap on and a fur stole, sitting upright and holding out to the spectator
a huge fur muff into which the whole of her forearm had vanished! Gregor's eyes
turned next to the window, and the overcast sky-one could hear rain drops beating
on the window gutter-made him quite melancholy. What about sleeping a little longer
and forgetting all this nonsense, he thought, but it could not be done, for he
was accustomed to sleep on his right side and in his present condition he could
not turn himself over. However violently he forced himself towards his right side
he always rolled on to his back again. He tried it at least a hundred times, shutting
his eyes to keep from seeing his struggling legs, and only desisted when he began
to feel in his side a faint dull ache he had never experienced before.
Oh God, he thought, what an exhausting job I've picked on! Traveling about day
in, day out. It's much more irritating work than doing the actual business in
the office, and on top of that there's the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying
about train connections, the bed and irregular meals, casual acquaintances that
are always new and never become intimate friends. The devil take it all! He felt
a slight itching up on his belly; slowly pushed himself on his back nearer to
the top of the bed so that he could lift his head more easily; identified the
itching place which was surrounded by many small white spots the nature of which
he could not understand and made to touch it with a leg, but drew the leg back
immediately, for the contact made a cold shiver run through him.
He slid down again into his former position. This getting up early, he thought,
makes one quite stupid. A man needs his sleep. Other commercials live like harem
women. For instance, when I come back to the hotel of a morning to write up the
orders I've got, these others are only sitting down to breakfast. Let me just
try that with my chief; I'd be sacked on the spot. Anyhow, that might be quite
a good thing for me, who can tell? If I didn't have to hold my hand because of
my parents I'd have given notice long ago, I'd have gone to the chief and told
him exactly what I think of him. That would knock him endways from his desk! It's
a queer way of doing, too, this sitting on high at a desk and talking down to
employees, especially when they have to come quite near because the chief is hard
of hearing. Well, there's still hope; once I've saved enough money to pay back
my parents' debts to him-that should take another five or six years-I'll do it
without fail. I'll cut myself completely loose then. For the moment, though, I'd
better get up, since my train goes at five.
He looked at the alarm clock ticking on the chest. Heavenly Father! he thought.
It was half-past six o'clock and the hands were quietly moving on, it was even
past the half-hour, it was getting on toward a quarter to seven. Had the alarm
clock not gone off? From the bed one could see that it had been properly set for
four o'clock; of course it must have gone off. Yes, but was it possible to sleep
quietly through that ear-splitting noise? well he had not slept quietly, yet apparently
all the more soundly for that. But what was he to do now? The next train went
at seven o'clock; to catch that he would need to hurry like mad and his samples
weren't even packed up, and he himself wasn't feeling particularly fresh and active.
And even if he did catch the train he wouldn't avoid a row with the chief, since
the firm's porter would have been waiting for the five o'clock train and would
have long since reported his failure to turn up. The porter was a creature of
the chief's, spineless and stupid. Well, supposing he were to say he was sick?
But that would be most unpleasant and would look suspicious, since during his
five years' employment he had not been ill once. The chief himself would be sure
to come with the sick-insurance doctor, would reproach his parents with their
son's laziness and would cut all excuses short by referring to the insurance doctor,
who of course regarded all mankind as perfectly healthy malingerers. And would
he be so far wrong on this occasion? Gregor really felt quite welt apart from
a drowsiness that was utterly superfluous after such a long sleep, and he was
even unusually hungry.
As all this was running through his mind at top speed without his being able to
decide to leave his bed-the alarm clock had just struck a quarter to seven-there
came a cautious tap at the door behind the head of his bed. "Gregor,"
said a voice-it was his mother's-"it's a quarter to seven. Hadn't you a train
to catch?" That gentle voice! Gregor had a shock as he heard his own voice
answering hers, unmistakably his own voice, it was true, but with a persistent
horrible twittering squeak behind it like an undertone, that left the words in
their clear shape only for the first moment and then rose up reverberating round
them to destroy their sense, so that one could not be sure one had heard them
rightly. Gregor wanted to answer at length and explain everything, but in the
circumstances he confined himself to saying: "Yes, yes, thank you, Mother,
I'm getting up now." The wooden door between them must have kept the change
in his voice from being noticeable outside, for his mother contented herself with
this statement and shuffled away. Yet this brief exchange of words had made the
other members of the family aware that Gregor was still in the house, as they
had not expected, and at one of the side doors his father was already knocking,
gently, yet with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor," he called, "what's
the matter with you?" And after a little while he called again in a deeper
voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door his sister was saying
in a low, plaintive tone: "Gregor? Aren't you well? Are you needing anything?"
He answered them both at once: "I'm just ready," and did his best to
make his voice sound as normal as possible by enunciating the words very clearly
and leaving long pauses between them. So his father went back to his breakfast,
but his sister whispered: "Gregor, open the door, do." However, he was
not thinking of opening the door, and felt thankful for the prudent habit he had
acquired in traveling of locking all doors during the night, even at home.
His immediate intention was to get up quietly without being disturbed, to put
on his clothes and above all eat his breakfast, and only then to consider what
else was to be done, since in bed, he was well aware, his meditations would come
to no sensible conclusion. He remembered that often enough in bed he had felt
small aches and pains, probably caused by awkward postures, which had proved purely
imaginary once he got up, and he looked forward eagerly to seeing this morning's
delusions gradually fall away. That the change in his voice was nothing but the
precursor of a severe chill, a standing ailment of commercial travelers, he had
not the least possible doubt.
To get rid of the quilt was quite easy; he had only to inflate himself a little
and it fell off by itself. But the next move was difficult, especially because
he was so uncommonly broad. He would have needed arms and hands to hoist himself
up; instead he had only the numerous little legs which never stopped waving in
all directions and which he could not control in the least. When he tried to bend
one of them it was the first to stretch itself straight; and did he succeed at
last in making it do what he wanted, all the other legs meanwhile waved the more
wildly in a high degree of unpleasant agitation. "But what's the use of lying
idle in bed," said Gregor to himself.
He thought that he might get out of bed with the lower part of his body first,
but this lower part, which he had not yet seen and of which he could form no clear
conception, proved too difficult to move; it shifted so slowly; and when finally,
almost wild with annoyance, he gathered his forces together and thrust out recklessly,
he had miscalculated the direction and bumped heavily against the lower end of
the bed, and the stinging pain he felt informed him that precisely this lower
part of his body was at the moment probably the most sensitive.
So he tried to get the top part of himself out first, and cautiously moved his
head towards the edge of the bed. That proved easy enough, and despite its breadth
and mass the bulk of his body at last slowly followed the movement of his head.
Still, when he finally got his head free over the edge of the bed he felt too
scared to go on advancing, for after all if he let himself fall in this way it
would take a miracle to keep his head from being injured. And at all costs he
must not lose consciousness now, precisely now; he would rather stay in bed.
But when after a repetition of the same efforts he lay in his former position
again, sighing, and watched his little legs struggling against each other more
wildly than ever, if that were possible, and saw no way of bringing any order
into this arbitrary confusion, he told himself again that it was impossible to
stay in bed and that the most sensible course was to risk everything for the smallest
hope of getting away from it. At the same time he did not forget meanwhile to
remind himself that cool reflection, the coolest possible, was much better than
desperate resolves. In such moments he focused his eyes as sharply as possible
on the window, but, unfortunately, the prospect of the morning fog, which muffled
even the other side of the narrow street, brought him little encouragement and
comfort. "Seven o'clock already," he said to himself when the alarm
clock chimed again, "seven o'clock already and still such a thick fog."
And for a little while he lay quiet, breathing lightly, as if perhaps expecting
such complete repose to restore all things to their real and normal condition.
But then he said to himself: "Before it strikes a quarter past seven I must
be quite out of this bed, without fail. Anyhow, by that time someone will have
come from the office to ask for me, since it opens before seven." And he
set himself to rocking his whole body at once in a regular rhythm, with the idea
of swinging it out of the bed. If he tipped himself out in that way he could keep
his head from injury by lifting it at an acute angle when he fell. His back seemed
to be hard and was not likely to suffer from a fall on the carpet. His biggest
worry was the loud crash he would not be able to help making, which would probably
cause anxiety, if not terror, behind all the doors. still he must take the risk.
When he was already half out of the bed-the new method was more a game than an
effort, for he needed only to hitch himself across by rocking to and fro-it struck
him how simple it would be if he could get help. Two strong people-he thought
of his father and the servant girl-would be amply sufficient; they would only
have to thrust their arms under his convex back, lever him out of the bed, bend
down with their burden and then be patient enough to let him turn himself right
over on to the floor, where it was to be hoped his legs would then find their
proper function. Well, ignoring the fact that the doors were all locked, ought
he really to call for help? In spite of his misery he could not suppress a smile
at the very idea of it.
He had got so far that he could barely keep his equilibrium when he rocked himself
strongly, and he would have to nerve himself very soon for the final decision
since in five minutes time it would be a quarter past seven-when the front door
bell rang. "That's someone from the office," he said to himself, and
grew almost rigid, while his little legs only jigged about all the faster. For
a moment everything stayed quiet. "They're not going to open the door,"
said Gregor to himself, catching at some kind of irrational hope. But then of
course the servant girl went as usual to the door with her heavy tread and opened
it. Gregor needed only to hear the first good morning of the visitor to know immediately
who it was-the chief clerk himself. What a fate, to be condemned to work for a
firm where the smallest omission at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were
all employees in a body nothing but scoundrels, was there not among them one single
loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm's time in
a morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and
actually incapable of leaving his bed? Wouldn't it really have been sufficient
to send an apprentice to inquire-if any inquiry were necessary at all-did the
chief clerk himself have to come and thus indicate to the entire family, an innocent
family, that this suspicious circumstance could be investigated by no one less
versed in affairs than himself? And more through the agitation caused by these
reflections than through any act of will Gregor swung himself out of bed with
all his strength. There was a loud thump, but it was not really a crash. His fall
was broken to some extent by the carpet, his back, too, was less stiff than he
thought, and so there was merely a dull thud, not so very startling. Only he had
not lifted his head carefully enough and had hit it; he turned it and rubbed it
on the carpet in pain and irritation.
"That was something falling down in there," said the chief clerk in
the next room to the left. Gregor tried to suppose to himself that something like
what had happened to him today might some day happen to the chief clerk; one really
could not deny that it was possible. But as if in brusque reply to this supposition
the chief clerk took a couple of firm steps in the next-door room and his patent
leather boots creaked. From the right-hand room his sister was whispering to inform
him of the situation: "Gregor, the chief clerk's here." "I know,"
muttered Gregor to himself; but he didn't dare to make his voice loud enough for
his sister to hear it.
"Gregor," said his father now from the left-hand room, "the chief
clerk has come and wants to know why you didn't catch the early train. We don't
know what to say to him. Besides, he wants to talk to you in person. So open the
door, please. He will be good enough to excuse the untidiness of your room."
"Good morning, Mr. Samsa," the chief clerk was calling amiably meanwhile.
"He's not well," said his mother to the visitor, while his father was
still speaking through the door, "he's not well, sir, believe me. What else
would make him miss a train! The boy thinks about nothing but his work. It makes
me almost cross the way he never goes out in the evenings; he's been here the
last eight days and has stayed at home every single evening. He just sits there
quietly at the table reading a newspaper or looking through railway timetables.
The only amusement he gets is doing fretwork. For instance, he spent two or three
evenings cutting out a little picture frame; you would be surprised to see how
pretty it is; it's hanging in his room; you'll see it in a minute when Gregor
opens the door. I must say I'm glad you've come, sir; we should never have got
him to unlock the door by ourselves; he's so obstinate; and I'm sure he's unwell,
though he wouldn't have it to be so this morning." "I'm just coming,"
said Gregor slowly and carefully, not moving an inch for fear of losing one word
of the conversation. "I can't think of any other explanation, madam,"
said the chief clerk, "I hope it's nothing serious. Although on the other
hand I must say that we men of business-fortunately or unfortunately-very often
simply have to ignore any slight indisposition, since business must be attended
to." "Well, can the chief clerk come in now?" asked Gregor's father
impatiently, again knocking on the door. "No," said Gregor. In the left-hand
room a painful silence followed this refusal, in the right-hand room his sister
began to sob.
Why didn't his sister join the others? She was probably newly out of bed and hadn't
even begun to put on her clothes yet. Well, why was she crying? Because he wouldn't
get up and let the chief clerk in, because he was in danger of losing his job,
and because the chief would begin dunning his parents again for the old debts?
Surely these were things one didn't need to worry about for the present. Gregor
was still at home and not in the least thinking of deserting the family. At the
moment, true, he was lying on the carpet and no one who knew the condition he
was in could seriously expect him to admit the chief clerk. But for such a small
discourtesy, which could plausibly be explained away somehow later on, Gregor
could hardly be dismissed on the spot. And it seemed to Gregor that it would be
much more sensible to leave him in peace for the present than to trouble him with
tears and entreaties. Still, of course, their uncertainty bewildered them all
and excused their behavior.
"Mr. Samsa," the chief clerk called now in a louder voice, "what's
the matter with you? Here you are, barricading yourself in your room, giving only
'yes' and 'no' for answers, causing your parents a lot of unnecessary trouble
and neglecting-I mention this only in passing-neglecting your business duties
in an incredible fashion. I am speaking here in the name of your parents and of
your chief, and I beg you quite seriously to give me an immediate and precise
explanation. You amaze me, you amaze me. I thought you were a quiet, dependable
person, and now all at once you seem bent on making a disgraceful exhibition of
yourself. The chief did hint to me early this morning a possible explanation for
your disappearance-with reference to the cash payments that were entrusted to
you recently-but I almost pledged my solemn word of honor that this could not
be so. But now that I see how incredibly obstinate you are, I no longer have the
slightest desire to take your part at all. And your position in the firm is not
so unassailable. I came with the intention of telling you all this in private,
but since you are wasting my time so needlessly I don't see why your parents shouldn't
hear it too. For some time past your work has been most unsatisfactory; this is
not the season of the year for a business boom, of course, we admit that, but
a season of the year for doing no business at all, that does not exist, Mr. Samsa,
must not exist."
"But, sir," cried Gregor, beside himself and in his agitation forgetting
everything else, "I'm just going to open the door this very minute. A slight
illness, an attack of giddiness, has kept me from getting up. I'm still lying
in bed. But I feel all right again. I'm getting out of bed now. Just give me a
moment or two longer! I'm not quite so well as I thought. But I'm all right, really.
How a thing like that can suddenly strike one down! Only last night I was quite
welt my parents can tell you, or rather I did have a slight presentiment. I must
have showed some sign of it. Why didn't I report it at the office! But one always
thinks that an indisposition can be got over without staying in the house. Oh
sir, do spare my parents! All that you're reproaching me with now has no foundation;
no one has ever said a word to me about it. Perhaps you haven't looked at the
last orders I sent in. Anyhow, I can still catch the eight o'clock train, I'm
much the better for my few hours' rest. Don't let me detain you here, sir; I'll
be attending to business very soon, and do be good enough to tell the chief so
and to make my excuses to him!"
And while all this was tumbling out pell-mell and Gregor hardly knew what he was
saying, he had reached the chest quite easily, perhaps because of the practice
he had had in bed, and was now trying to lever himself upright by means of it.
He meant actually to open the door, actually to show himself and speak to the
chief clerk; he was eager to find out what the others, after all their insistence,
would say at the sight of him. If they were horrified then the responsibility
was no longer his and he could stay quiet. But if they took it calmly, then he
had no reason either to be upset, and could really get to the station for the
eight o'clock train if he hurried. At first he slipped down a few times from the
polished surface of the chest, but at length with a last heave he stood upright;
he paid no more attention to the pains in the lower part of his body, however
they smarted. Then he let himself fall against the back of a near-by chair, and
clung with his little legs to the edges of it. That brought him into control of
himself again and he stopped speaking, for now he could listen to what the chief
clerk was saying.
"Did you understand a word of it?" the chief clerk was asking; "surely
he can't be trying to make fools of us?" "Oh dear," cried his mother,
in tears, "perhaps he's terribly ill and we're tormenting him. Grete! Grete!"
she called out then. "Yes Mother?" called his sister from the other
side. They were calling to each other across Gregor's room. "You must go
this minute for the doctor. Gregor is ill. Go for the doctor, quick. Did you hear
how he was speaking?" "That was no human voice," said the chief
clerk in a voice noticeably low beside the shrillness of the mother's. "Anna!
Anna!" his father was calling through the hall to the kitchen, clapping his
hands, "get a locksmith at once!" And the two girls were already running
through the hall with a swish of skirts-how could his sister have got dressed
so quickly? -and were tearing the front door open. There was no sound of its closing
again; they had evidently left it open, as one does in houses where some great
misfortune has happened.
But Gregor was now much calmer. The words he uttered were no longer understandable,
apparently, although they seemed clear enough to him, even clearer than before,
perhaps because his ear had grown accustomed to the sound of them. Yet at any
rate people now believed that something was wrong with him, and were ready to
help him. The positive certainty with which these first measures had been taken
comforted him. He felt himself drawn once more into the human circle and hoped
for great and remarkable results from both the doctor and the locksmith, without
really distinguishing precisely between them. To make his voice as clear as possible
for the decisive conversation that was now imminent he coughed a little, as quietly
as he could, of course, since this noise too might not sound like a human cough
for all he was able to judge. In the next room meanwhile there was complete silence.
Perhaps his parents were sitting at the table with the chief clerk, whispering,
perhaps they were all leaning against the door and listening.
Slowly Gregor pushed the chair towards the door, then let go of it, caught hold
of the door for support- the soles at the end of his little legs were somewhat
sticky-and rested against it for a moment after his efforts. Then he set himself
to turning the key in the lock with his mouth. It seemed, unhappily, that he hadn't
really any teeth-what could he grip the key with?-but on the other hand his jaws
were certainly very strong; with their help he did manage to set the key in motion,
heedless of the fact that he was undoubtedly damaging them somewhere, since a
brown fluid issued from his mouth, flowed over the key and dripped on the floor.
"Just listen to that," said the chief clerk next door; "he's turning
the key." That was a great encouragement to Gregor; but they should all have
shouted encouragement to him, his father and mother too: "Go on, Gregor,"
they should have called out, "keep going, hold on to that key!" And
in the belief that they were all following his efforts intently, he clenched his
jaws recklessly on the key with all the force at his command. As the turning of
the key progressed he circled round the lock, holding on now only with his mouth,
pushing on the key, as required, or pulling it down again with all the weight
of his body. The louder click of the finally yielding lock literally quickened
Gregor. With a deep breath of relief he said to himself: "So I didn't need
the locksmith," and laid his head on the handle to open the door wide.
Since he had to pull the door towards him, he was still invisible when it was
really wide open. He had to edge himself slowly round the near half of the double
door, and to do it very carefully if he was not to fall plump upon his back just
on the threshold. He was still carrying out this difficult manoeuvre, with no
time to observe anything else, when he heard the chief clerk utter a loud "Oh!"-it
sounded like a gust of wind-and now he could see the man, standing as he was nearest
to the door, clapping one hand before his open mouth and slowly backing away as
if driven by some invisible steady pressure. His mother-in spite of the chief
clerk's being there her hair was still undone and sticking up in all directions-first
clasped her hands and looked at his father, then took two steps towards Gregor
and fell on the floor among her outspread skirts, her face quite hidden on her
breast. His father knotted his fist with a fierce expression on his face as if
he meant to knock Gregor back into his room, then looked uncertainly round the
living room, covered his eyes with his hands and wept till his great chest heaved.
Gregor did not go now into the living room, but leaned against the inside of the
firmly shut wing of the door, so that only half his body was visible and his head
above it bending sideways to look at the others. The light had meanwhile strengthened;
on the other side of the street one could see clearly a section of the endlessly
long, dark gray building opposite-it was a hospital-abruptly punctuated by its
row of regular windows; the rain was still falling, but only in large singly discernible
and literally singly splashing drops. The breakfast dishes were set out on the
table lavishly, for. breakfast was the most important meal of the day to Gregor's
father, who lingered it out for hours over various newspapers. Right opposite
Gregor on the wall hung a photograph of himself on military service, as a lieutenant,
hand on sword, a carefree smile on his face, inviting one to respect his uniform
and military bearing. The door leading to the hall was open, and one could see
that the front door stood open too, showing the landing beyond and the beginning
of the stairs going down.
"Well," said Gregor, knowing perfectly that he was the only one who
had retained any composure, "I'll put my clothes on at once, pack up my samples
and start off. Will you only let me go? You see, sir, I'm not obstinate, and I'm
willing to work; traveling is a hard life, but I couldn't live without it. Where
are you going, sir? To the office? Yes? Will you give a true account of all this?
One can be temporarily incapacitated, but that's just the moment for remembering
former services and bearing in mind that later on, when the incapacity has been
got over, one will certainly work with all the more industry and concentration.
I'm loyally bound to serve the chief, you know that very well. Besides, I have
to provide for my parents and my sister. I'm in great difficulties, but I'll get
out of them again. Don't make things any worse for me than they are. Stand up
for me in the firm. Travelers are not popular there, I know. People think they
earn sacks of money and just have a good time. A prejudice there's no particular
reason for revising. But you, sir, have a more comprehensive view of affairs than
the rest of the staff, yes, let me tell you in confidence, a more comprehensive
view than the chief himself, who, being the owner, lets his judgment easily be
swayed against one of his employees. And you know very well that the traveler,
who is never seen in the office almost the whole year round, can so easily fall
a victim to gossip and ill luck and unfounded complaints, which he mostly knows
nothing about, except when he comes back exhausted from his rounds, and only then
suffers in person from their evil consequences, which he can no longer trace back
to the original causes. Sir, sir, don't go away without a word to me to show that
you think me in the right at least to some extent!"
But at Gregor's very first words the chief clerk had already backed away and only
stared at him with parted lips over one twitching shoulder. And while Gregor was
speaking he did not stand still one moment but stole away towards the door, without
taking his eyes off Gregor, yet only an inch at a time, as if obeying some secret
injunction to leave the room. He was already at the hall, and the suddenness with
which he took his last step out of the living room would have made one believe
he had burned the sole of his foot. Once in the hall he stretched his right arm
before him towards the staircase, as if some supernatural power were waiting there
to deliver him.
Gregor perceived that the chief clerk must on no account be allowed to go away
in this frame of mind if his position in the firm were not to be endangered to
the utmost. His parents did not understand this so well; they had convinced themselves
in the course of years that Gregor was settled for life in this firm, and besides
they were so preoccupied with their immediate troubles that all foresight had
forsaken them. Yet Gregor had this foresight. The chief clerk must be detained,
soothed, persuaded and finally won over; the whole future of Gregor and his family
depended on it! If only his sister had been there! She was intelligent; she had
begun to cry while Gregor was still lying quietly on his back. And no doubt the
chief clerk so partial to ladies, would have been guided by her; she would have
shut the door of the flat and in the hall talked him out of his horror. But she
was not there, and Gregor would have to handle the situation himself. And without
remembering that he was still unaware what powers of movement he possessed, without
even remembering that his words in all possibility, indeed in all likelihood,
would again be unintelligible, he let go the wing of the door, pushed himself
through the opening, started to walk towards the chief clerk, who was already
ridiculously clinging with both hands to the railing on the landing; but immediately,
as he was feeling for a support, he fell down with a little cry upon all his numerous
legs. Hardly was he down when he experienced for the first time this morning a
sense of physical comfort; his legs had firm ground under them; they were completely
obedient, as he noted with joy; they even strove to carry him forward in whatever
direction he chose; and he was inclined to believe that a final relief from all
his sufferings was at hand. But in the same moment as he found himself on the
floor, rocking with suppressed eagerness to move, not far from his mother, indeed
just in front of her, she, who had seemed so completely crushed, sprang all at
once to her feet, her arms and fingers outspread, cried: "Help, for God's
sake, help!" bent her head down as if to see Gregor better, yet on the contrary
kept backing senselessly away; had quite forgotten that the laden table stood
behind her; sat upon it hastily, as if in absence of mind, when she bumped into
it; and seemed altogether unaware that the big coffee pot beside her was upset
and pouring coffee in a flood over the carpet.
"Mother, Mother," said Gregor in a low voice, and looked up at her.
The chief clerk for the moment, had quite slipped from his mind; instead, he could
not resist snapping his jaws together at the sight of the streaming coffee. That
made his mother scream again, she fled from the table and fell into the arms of
his father, who hastened to catch her. But Gregor had now no time to spare for
his parents; the chief clerk was already on the stairs; with his chin on the banisters
he was taking one last backward look. Gregor made a spring, to be as sure as possible
of overtaking him; the chief clerk must have divined his intention, for he leaped
down several steps and vanished; he was still yelling "Ugh!" and it
echoed through the whole staircase.
Unfortunately, the flight of the chief clerk seemed completely to upset Gregor's
father, who had remained relatively calm until now, for instead of running after
the man himself, or at least not hindering Gregor, in his pursuit, he seized in
his right hand the walking stick which the chief clerk had left behind on a chair,
together with a hat and greatcoat, snatched in his left hand a large news paper
from the table and began stamping his feet and flourishing the stick and the newspaper
to drive Gregor back into his room. No entreaty of Gregor's availed, indeed no
entreaty was even understood, however humbly he bent his head his father only
stamped on the floor the more loudly. Behind his father his mother had torn open
a window, despite the cold weather, and was leaning far out of it with her face
in her hands. A strong draught set in from the street to the staircase, the window
curtains blew in, the newspapers on the table fluttered, stray pages whisked over
the floor. Pitilessly Gregor's father drove him back, hissing and crying "Shoo!"
like a savage. But Gregor was quite unpracticed in walking backwards, it really
was a slow business. If he only had a chance to turn round he could get back to
his room at once, but he was afraid of exasperating his father by the slowness
of such a rotation and at any moment the stick in his father's hand might hit
him a fatal blow on the back or on the head. In the end, however, nothing else
was left for him to do since to his horror he observed that in moving backwards
he could not even control the direction he took; and so, keeping an anxious eye
on his father all the time over his shoulder, he began to turn round as quickly
as he could, which was in reality very slowly. Perhaps his father noted his good
intentions, for he did not interfere except every now and then to help him in
the manoeuvre from a distance with the point of the stick. If only he would have
stopped making that unbearable hissing noise! It made Gregor quite lose his head.
He had turned almost completely round when the hissing noise so distracted him
that he even turned a little the wrong way again. But when at last his head was
fortunately right in front of the doorway, it appeared that his body was too broad
simply to get through the opening. His father, of course, in his present mood
was far from thinking of such a thing as opening the other half of the door, to
let Gregor have enough space. He had merely the fixed idea of driving Gregor back
into his room as quickly as possible. He would never have suffered Gregor to make
the circumstantial preparations for standing up on end and perhaps slipping his
way through the door. Maybe he was now making more noise than ever to urge Gregor
forward, as if no obstacle impeded him; to Gregor, anyhow, the noise in his rear
sounded no longer like the voice of one single father; this was really no joke,
and Gregor thrust himself-come what might-into the doorway. One side of his body
rose up, he was tilted at an angle in the doorway, his flank was quite bruised,
horrid blotches stained the white door, soon he was stuck fast and, left to himself,
could not have moved at ale his legs on one side fluttered trembling in the air,
those on the other were crushed painfully to the floor-when from behind his father
gave him a strong push which was literally a deliverance and he flew far into
the room, bleeding freely. The door was slammed behind him with the stick, and
then at last there was silence.
qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé.
Nietzsche, Gay Science