Franz Kafka (1883 - 1926)
The Metamorphose - Part Three
Wait a minute, there's a snag somewhere; something disagreeable.
Why, now, should it be disagreeable?...Ah,I see; it's
life without a break. (Jean Paul Sartre - huis clos)
one -- part
THE SERIOUS INJURY
done to Gregor, which disabled him for more than a month-the apple went on sticking
in his body as a visible reminder, since no one ventured to remove it-seemed to
have made even his father recollect that Gregor was a member of the family, despite
his present unfortunate and repulsive shape, and ought not to be treated as an
enemy, that, on the contrary, family duty required the suppression of disgust
and the exercise of patience, nothing but patience.
And although his injury had impaired, probably for ever, his powers of movement,
and for the time being it took him long, long minutes to creep across his room
like an old invalid-there was no question now of crawling up the wall-yet in his
own opinion he was sufficiently compensated for this worsening of his condition
by the fact that towards evening the living-room door, which he used to watch
intently for an hour or two beforehand, was always thrown open, so that lying
in the darkness of his room, invisible to the family, he could see them all at
the lamp-lit table and listen to their talk, by general consent as it were, very
different from his earlier eavesdropping.
True, their intercourse lacked the lively character of former times, which he
had always called to mind with a certain wistfulness in the small hotel bedrooms
where he had been wont to throw himself down, tired out, on damp bedding. They
were now mostly very silent. Soon after supper his father would fall asleep in
his armchair; his mother and sister would admonish each other to be silent; his
mother, bending low over the lamp, stitched at fine sewing for an underwear firm;
his sister, who had taken a job as a salesgirl, was learning shorthand and French
in the evenings on the chance of bettering herself. Sometimes his father woke
up, and as if quite unaware that he had been sleeping said to his mother: "What
a lot of sewing you're doing today!" and at once fell asleep again, while
the two women exchanged a tired smile.
With a kind of mulishness his father persisted in keeping his uniform on even
in the house; his dressing gown hung uselessly on its peg and he slept fully dressed
where he sat, as if he were ready for service at any moment and even here only
at the beck and call of his superior. As a result, his uniform, which was not
brand-new to start with, began to look dirty, despite all the loving care of the
mother and sister to keep it clean, and Gregor often spent whole evenings gazing
at the many greasy spots on the garment, gleaming with gold buttons always in
a high state of polish, in which the old man sat sleeping in extreme discomfort
and yet quite peacefully.
As soon as the clock struck ten his mother tried to rouse his father with gentle
words and to persuade him after that to get into bed, for sitting there he could
not have a proper sleep and that was what he needed most, since he had to go on
duty at six. But with the mulishness that had obsessed him since he became a bank
messenger he always insisted on staying longer at the table, although he regularly
fell asleep again and in the end only with the greatest trouble could be got out
of his armchair and into his bed. However insistently Gregor's mother and sister
kept urging him with gentle reminders, he would go on slowly shaking his head
for a quarter of an hour, keeping his eyes shut, and refuse to get to his feet.
The mother plucked at his sleeve, whispering endearments in his ear, the sister
left her lessons to come to her mother's help, but Gregor's father was not to
be caught. He would only sink down deeper in his chair. Not until the two women
hoisted him up by the armpits did he open his eyes and look at them both, one
after the other, usually with the remark: "This is a life. This is the peace
and quiet of my old age." And leaning on the two of them he would heave himself
up, with difficulty, as if he were a great burden to himself, suffer them to lead
him as far as the door and then wave them off and go on alone, while the mother
abandoned her needlework and the sister her pen in order to run after him and
help him farther.
Who could find time, in this overworked and tired out family, to bother about
Gregor more than was absolutely needful? The household was reduced more and more;
the servant girl was turned off; a gigantic bony charwoman with white hair flying
round her head came in morning and evening to do the rough work; everything else
was done by Gregor's mother, as well as great piles of sewing. Even various family
ornaments, which his mother and sister used to wear with pride at parties and
celebrations, had to be sold, as Gregor discovered of an evening from hearing
them all discuss the prices obtained. But what they lamented most was the fact
that they could not leave the flat which was much too big for their present circumstances,
because they could not think of any way to shift Gregor. Yet Gregor saw well enough
that consideration for him was not the main difficulty preventing the removal,
for they could have easily shifted him in some suitable box with a few air holes
in it; what really kept them from moving into another flat was rather their own
complete hopelessness and the belief that they had been singled out for a misfortune
such as had never happened to any of their relations or acquaintances. They fulfilled
to the uttermost all that the world demands of poor people, the father fetched
breakfast for the small clerks in the bank, the mother devoted her energy to making
underwear for strangers, the sister trotted to and fro behind the counter at the
behest of customers, but more than this they had not the strength to do. And the
wound in Gregor's back began to nag at him afresh when his mother and sister,
after getting his father into bed, came back again, left their work lying, drew
close to each other and sat cheek by cheek; when his mother, pointing towards
his room, said: "Shut that door now, Grete," and he was left again in
darkness, while next door the women mingled their tears or perhaps sat dry-eyed
staring at the table.
Gregor hardly slept at all by night or by day. He was often haunted by the idea
that next time the door opened he would take the family's affairs in hand again
just as he used to do; once more, after this long interval, there appeared in
his thoughts the figures of the chief and the chief clerk, the commercial travelers
and the apprentices, the porter who was so dull-witted, two or three friends in
other firms, a chambermaid in one of the rural hotels, a sweet and fleeting memory,
a cashier in a milliner's shop, whom he had wooed earnestly but too slowly-they
all appeared, together with strangers or people he had quite forgotten, but instead
of helping him and his family they were one and all unapproachable and he was
glad when they vanished. At other times he would not be in the mood to bother
about his family, he was only filled with rage at the way they were neglecting
him, and although he had no clear idea of what he might care to eat he would make
plans for getting into the larder to take the food that was after all his due,
even if he were not hungry. His sister no longer took thought to bring him what
might especially please him, but in the morning and at noon before she went to
business hurriedly pushed into his room with her foot any food that was available,
and in the evening cleared it out again with one sweep of the broom, heedless
of whether it had been merely tasted, or-as most frequently happened-left untouched.
The cleaning of his room, which she now did always in the evenings, could not
have been more hastily done. Streaks of dirt stretched along the walls, here and
there lay balls of dust and filth. At first Gregor used to station himself in
some particularly filthy corner when his sister arrived, in order to reproach
her with it, so to speak. But he could have sat there for weeks without getting
her to make any improvement; she could see the dirt as well as he did, but she
had simply made up her mind to leave it alone. And yet, with a touchiness that
was new to her, which seemed anyhow to have infected the whole family, she jealously
guarded her claim to be the sole caretaker of Gregor's room. His mother once subjected
his room to a thorough cleaning, which was achieved only by means of several buckets
of water-all this dampness of course upset Gregor too and he lay widespread, sulky
and motionless on the sofa-but she was well punished for it. Hardly had his sister
noticed the changed aspect of his room that evening than she rushed in high dudgeon
into the living room and, despite the imploringly raised hands of her mother,
burst into a storm of weeping, while her parents-her father had of course been
startled out of his chair-looked on at first in helpless amazement; then they
too began to go into action; the father reproached the mother on his right for
not having left the cleaning of Gregor's room to his sister; shrieked at the sister
on his left that never again was she to be allowed to clean Gregor's room; while
the mother tried to pull the father into his bedroom, since he was beyond himself
with agitation; the sister, shaken with sobs, then beat upon the table with her
small fists; and Gregor hissed loudly with rage because not one of them thought
of shutting the door to spare him such a spectacle and so much noise.
Still, even if the sister, exhausted by her daily work, had grown tired of looking
after Gregor as she did formerly, there was no need for his mother's intervention
or for Gregor's being neglected at all. The charwoman was there. This old widow,
whose strong bony frame had enabled her to survive the worst a long life could
offer, by no means recoiled from Gregor. Without being in the least curious she
had once by chance opened the door of his room and at the sight of Gregor, who,
taken by surprise, began to rush to and fro although no one was chasing him, merely
stood there with her arms folded. From that time she never failed to open his
door a little for a moment, morning and evening, to have a look at him. At first
she even used to call him to her, with words which apparently she took to be friendly,
such as: "Come along, then, you old dung beetle!" or "Look at the
old dung beetle, then!" To such allocutions Gregor made no answer, but stayed
motionless where he was, as if the door had never been opened. Instead of being
allowed to disturb him so senselessly whenever the whim took her, she should rather
have been ordered to clean out his room daily, that charwoman! Once, early in
the morning-heavy rain was lashing on the windowpanes, perhaps a sign that spring
was on the way-Gregor was so exasperated when she began addressing him again that
he ran at her, as if to attack her, although slowly and feebly enough. But the
charwoman instead of showing fright merely lifted high a chair that happened to
be beside the door, and as she stood there with her mouth wide open it was clear
that she meant to shut it only when she brought the chair down on Gregor's back.
"So you're not coming any nearer?" she asked, as Gregor turned away
again, and quietly put the chair back into the corner.
Gregor was now eating hardly anything. Only when he happened to pass the food
laid out for him did he take a bit of something in his mouth as a pastime, kept
it there for an hour at a time and usually spat it out again. At first he thought
it was chagrin over the state of his room that prevented him from eating, yet
he soon got used to the various changes in his room. It had become a habit in
the family to push into his room things there was no room for elsewhere, and there
were plenty of these now, since one of the rooms had been let to three lodgers.
These serious gentlemen-all three of them with full beards, as Gregor once observed
through a crack in the door-had a passion for order, not only in their own room
but, since they were now members of the household, in all its arrangements, especially
in the kitchen. Superfluous, not to say dirty, objects they could not bear. Besides,
they had brought with them most of the furnishings they needed. For this reason
many things could be dispensed with that it was no use trying to sell but that
should not be thrown away either. All of them found their way into Gregor's room.
The ash can likewise and the kitchen garbage can. Anything that was not needed
for the moment was simply flung into Gregor's room by the charwoman, who did everything
in a hurry; fortunately Gregor usually saw only the object, whatever it was, and
the hand that held it. Perhaps she intended to take the things away again as time
and opportunity offered, or to collect them until she could throw them all out
in a heap, but in fact they just lay wherever she happened to throw them, except
when Gregor pushed his way through the junk heap and shifted it somewhat, at first
out of necessity, because he kind not room enough to crawl, but later with increasing
enjoy meet, although after such excursions, being sad and weary to death, he would
lie motionless for hours. And since the lodgers often ate their supper at home
in the common living room, the living-room door stayed shut many an evening, yet
Gregor reconciled himself quite easily to the shutting of the door, for often
enough on evenings when it was opened he had disregarded it entirely and lain
in the darkest corner of his room, quite unnoticed by the family. But on one occasion
the charwoman left the door open a little and it stayed ajar even when the lodgers
came in for supper and the lamp was lit They set themselves at the top end of
the table where formerly Gregor and his father and mother had eaten their meals,
unfolded their napkins and took knife and fork in hand. At once his mother appeared
in the other doorway with a dish of meat and close behind her his sister with
a dish of potatoes piled high. The food steamed with a thick vapor. The lodgers
bent over the food set before them as if to scrutinize it before eating, in fact
the man in the middle, who seemed to pass for an authority with the other two,
cut a piece of meat as it lay on the dish, obviously to discover if it were tender
or should be sent back to the kitchen. He showed satisfaction, and Gregor's mother
and sister, who had been watching anxiously, breathed freely and began to smile.
The family itself took its meals in the kitchen. None the less, Gregor's father
came into the living room before going into the kitchen and with one prolonged
bow, cap in hand, made a round of the table. The lodgers all stood up and murmured
something in their beards. When they were alone again they ate their food in almost
complete silence. It seemed remarkable to Gregor that among the various noises
coming from the table he could always distinguish the sound of their masticating
teeth, as if this were a sign to Gregor that one needed teeth in order to eat,
and that with toothless jaws even of the finest make one could do nothing. "I'm
hungry enough," said Gregor sadly to himself, "but not for that kind
of food. How these lodgers are stuffing themselves, and here am I dying of starvation!"
On that very evening-during the whole of his time there Gregor could not remember
ever having heard the violin-the sound of violin-playing came from the kitchen.
The lodgers had already finished their supper, the one in the middle had brought
out a newspaper and given the other two a page apiece, and now they were leaning
back at ease reading and smoking. When the violin began to play they pricked up
their ears, got to their feet, and went on tiptoe to the hall door where they
stood huddled together. Their movements must have been heard in the kitchen, for
Gregor's father called out: "Is the violin-playing disturbing you, gentlemen?
It can be stopped at once." "On the contrary," said the middle
lodger, "could not Fraulein Samsa come and play in this room, beside us,
where it is much more convenient and comfortable?" "Oh certainly,"
cried Gregor's father, as if he were the violin-player. The lodgers came back
into the living room and waited. Presently Gregor's father arrived with the music
stand, his mother carrying the music and his sister with the violin. His sister
quietly made everything ready to start playing; his parents, who had never let
rooms before and so had an exaggerated idea of the courtesy due to lodgers, did
not venture to sit down on their own chairs; his father leaned against the door,
the right hand thrust between two buttons of his livery coat, which was formally
buttoned up; but his mother was offered a chair by one of the lodgers and, since
she left the chair just where he had happened to put it, sat down in a corner
to one side.
Gregor's sister began to play; the father and mother, from either side, intently
watched the movements of her hands. Gregor, attracted by the playing, ventured
to move forward a little until his head was actually inside the living room. He
felt hardly any surprise at his growing lack of consideration for the others;
there had been a time when he prided himself on being considerate. And yet just
on this occasion he had more reason than ever to hide himself, since owing to
the amount of dust which lay thick in his room and rose into the air at the slightest
movement, he too was covered with dust; fluff and hair and remnants of food trailed
with him, caught on his back and along his sides; his indifference to everything
was much too great for him to turn on his back and scrape himself clean on the
carpet, as once he had done several times a day. And in spite of his condition,
no shame deterred him from advancing a little over the spotless floor of the living
To be sure, no one was aware of him. The family was entirely absorbed in the violin-playing;
the lodgers, however, who first of all had stationed themselves, hands in pockets,
much too close behind the music stand so that they could all have read the music,
which must have bothered his sister, had soon retreated to the window, half-whispering
with downbent heads, and stayed there while his father turned an anxious eye on
them. Indeed, they were making it more than obvious that they had been disappointed
in their expectation of hearing good or enjoyable violin-playing, that they had
had more than enough of the performance and only out of courtesy suffered a continued
disturbance of their peace. From the way they all kept blowing the smoke of their
cigars high in the air through nose and mouth one could divine their irritation.
And yet Gregor's sister was playing so beautifully. Her face leaned sideways,
intently and sadly her eyes followed the notes of music. Gregor crawled a little
farther forward and lowered his head to the ground so that it might be possible
for his eyes to meet hers. Was he an animal, that music had such an effect upon
him? He felt as if the way were opening before him to the unknown nourishment
he craved. He was determined to push forward till he reached his sister, to pull
at her skirt and so let her know that she was to come into his room with her violin,
for no one here appreciated her playing as he would appreciate it. He would never
let her out of his room, at least, not so long as he lived; his frightful appearance
would become, for the first time, useful to him; he would watch all the doors
of his room at once and spit at intruders; but his sister should need no constraint,
she should stay with him of her own free will; she should sit beside him on the
sofa, bend down her ear to him and hear him confide that he had had the firm intention
of sending her to the Conservatorium, and that, but for his mishap, last Christmas-surely
Christmas was long past?-he would have announced it to everybody without allowing
a single objection. After this confession his sister would be so touched that
she would burst into tears, and Gregor would then raise himself to her shoulder
and kiss her on the neck, which, now that she went to business, she kept free
of any ribbon or collar.
"Mr. Samsa!" cried the middle lodger, to Gregor's father, and pointed,
without wasting any more words, at Gregor, now working himself slowly forwards.
The violin fell silent, the middle lodger first smiled to his friends with a shake
of the head and then looked at Gregor again. Instead of driving Gregor out, his
father seemed to think it more needful to begin by soothing down the lodgers,
although they were not at all agitated and apparently found Gregor more entertaining
than the violin-playing. He hurried towards them and, spreading out his arms,
tried to urge them back into their own room and at the same time to block their
view of Gregor. They now began to be really a little angry, one could not tell
whether because of the old man's behavior or because it had just dawned on them
that all unwittingly they had such a neighbor as Gregor next door. They demanded
explanations of his father, they waved their arms like him, tugged uneasily at
their beards, and only with reluctance backed towards their room. Meanwhile Gregor's
sister, who stood there as if lost when her playing was so abruptly broken off,
came to life again, pulled herself together all at once after standing for a while
holding violin and bow in nervelessly hanging hands and staring at her music,
pushed her violin into the lap of her mother, who was still sitting in her chair
fighting asthmatically for breath, and ran into the lodgers' room to which they
were now being shepherded by her father rather more quickly than before. One could
see the pillows and blankets on the beds flying under her accustomed fingers and
being laid in order. Before the lodgers had actually reached their room she had
finished making the beds and slipped out.
The old man seemed once more to be so possessed by his mulish self-assertiveness
that he was forgetting all, the respect he should show to his lodgers. He kept
driving them on and driving them on until in the very door of the bedroom the
middle lodger stamped his foot loudly on the floor and so brought him to a halt.
"I beg to announce," said the lodger, lifting one hand and looking also
at Gregor's mother and sister, "that because of the disgusting conditions
prevailing in this household and family"-here he spat on the floor with emphatic
brevity-"I give you notice on the spot. Naturally I won't pay you a penny
for the days I have lived here, on the contrary I shall consider bringing an action
for damages against you, based on claims-believe me-that will be easily susceptible
of proof." He ceased and stared straight in front of him, as if he expected
something. In fact his two friends at once rushed into the breach with these words:
"And we too give notice on the spot." On that he seized the door-handle
and shut the door with a slam.
Gregor's father, groping with his hands, staggered forward and fell into his chair;
it looked as if he were stretching himself there for his ordinary evening nap,
but the marked jerkings of his head, which was as if uncontrollable, showed that
he was far from asleep. Gregor had simply stayed quietly all the time on the spot
where the lodgers had espied him. Disappointment at the failure of his plan, perhaps
also the weakness arising from extreme hunger, made it impossible for him to move.
He feared, with a fair degree of certainty, that at any moment the general tension
would discharge itself in a combined attack upon him, and he lay waiting. He did
not react even to the noise made by the violin as it fell off his mother's lap
from under her trembling fingers and gave out a resonant note.
"My dear parents," said his sister, slapping her hand on the table by
way of introduction, "things can't go on like this. Perhaps you don't realize
that, but I do. I won't utter my brother's name in the presence of this creature,
and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it. We've tried to look after it
and to put up with it as far as is humanly possible, and I don't think anyone
could reproach us in the slightest."
"She is more than right," said Gregor's father to himself. His mother,
who was still choking for lack of breath, began to cough hollowly into her hand
with a wild look in her eyes.
His sister rushed over to her and held her forehead. His father's thoughts seemed
to have lost their vagueness at Grete's words, he sat more upright, fingering
his service cap that lay among the plates still lying on the table from the lodgers'
supper, and from time to time looked at the still form of Gregor.
"We must try to get rid of it," his sister now said explicitly to her
father, since her mother was coughing too much to hear a word, "it will be
the death of both of you, I can see that coming. When one has to work as hard
as we do, all of us, one can't stand this continual torment at home on top of
it. At least I can't stand it any longer." And she burst into such a passion
of sobbing that her tears dropped on her mother's face, where she wiped them off
"My dear," said the old man sympathetically, and with evident understanding,
"but what can we do?"
Gregor's sister merely shrugged her shoulders to indicate the feeling of helplessness
that had now overmastered her during her weeping fit, in contrast to her former
"If he could understand us," said her father, half questioningly; Grete,
still sobbing, vehemently waved a hand to show how unthinkable that was.
"If he could understand us," repeated the old man, shutting his eyes
to consider his daughter's conviction that understanding was impossible, "then
perhaps we might come to some agreement with him. But as it is-"
"He must go," cried Gregor's sister, "that's the only solution,
Father. You must just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact
that we've believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble. But how can
it be Gregor? If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human
beings can't live with such a creature, and he'd have gone away on his own accord.
Then we wouldn't have any brother, but we'd be able to go on living and keep his
memory in honor. As it is, this creature persecutes us, drives away our lodgers,
obviously wants the whole apartment to himself and would have us all sleep in
the gutter. Just look, Father," she shrieked all at once, "he's at it
again!" And in an access of panic that was quite incomprehensible to Gregor
she even quitted her mother, literally thrusting the chair from her as if she
would rather sacrifice her mother than stay so near to Gregor, and rushed behind
her father, who also rose up, being simply upset by her agitation, and half-spread
his arms out as if to protect her.
Yet Gregor had not the slightest intention of frightening anyone, far less his
sister. He had only begun to turn round in order to crawl back to his room, but
it was certainly a startling operation to watch, since because of his disabled
condition he could not execute the difficult turning movements except by lifting
his head and then bracing it against the floor over and over again. He paused
and looked round. His good intentions seemed to have been recognized; the alarm
had only been momentary. Now they were all watching him in melancholy silence.
His mother lay in her chair, her legs stiffly outstretched and pressed together,
her eyes almost closing for sheer weariness; his father and his sister were sitting
beside each other, his sister's arm around the old man's neck.
Perhaps I can go on turning round now, thought Gregor, and began his labors again.
He could not stop himself from panting with the effort, and had to pause now and
then to take breath. Nor did anyone harass him, he was left entirely to himself.
When he had completed the turn-round he began at once to crawl straight back.
He was amazed at the distance separating him from his room and could not understand
how in his weak state he had managed to accomplish the same journey so recently,
almost without remarking it. Intent on crawling as fast as possible, he barely
noticed that not a single word, not an ejaculation from his family, interfered
with his progress. Only when he was already in the doorway did he turn his head
round, not completely, for his neck muscles were getting stiff, but enough to
see that nothing had changed behind him except that his sister had risen to her
feet. His last glance fell on his mother, who was not quite overcome by sleep.
Hardly was he well inside his room when the door was hastily pushed shut, bolted
and locked. The sudden noise in his rear startled him so much that his little
legs gave beneath him. It was his sister who had shown such haste. She had been
standing ready waiting and had made a light spring forward, Gregor had not even
heard her coming, and she cried "At last!" to her parents as she turned
the key in the lock.
"And what now?" said Gregor to himself, looking round in the darkness.
Soon he made the discovery that he was now unable to stir a limb. This did not
surprise him, rather it seemed unnatural that he should ever actually have been
able to move on these feeble little legs. Otherwise he felt relatively comfortable.
True, his whole body was aching, but it seemed that the pain was gradually growing
less and would finally pass away. The rotting apple in his back and the inflamed
area around it, all covered with soft dust, already hardly troubled him. He thought
of his family with tenderness and love. The decision that he must disappear was
one that he held to even more strongly than his sister, if that were possible.
In this state of vacant and peaceful meditation he remained until the tower clock
struck three in the morning. The first broadening of light in the world outside
the window entered his consciousness once more. Then his head sank to the floor
of its own accord and from his nostrils came the last faint flicker of his breath.
When the charwoman arrived early in the morning- what between her strength and
her impatience she slammed all the doors so loudly, never mind how often she had
been begged not to do so, that no one in the whole apartment could enjoy any quiet
sleep after her arrival-she noticed nothing unusual as she took her customary
peep into Gregor's room. She thought he was lying motionless on purpose, pretending
to be in the sulks; she credited him with every kind of intelligence. Since she
happened to have the long-handled broom in her hand she tried to tickle him up
with it from the doorway. When that too produced no reaction she felt provoked
and poked at him a little harder, and only when she had pushed him along the floor
without meeting any resistance was her attention aroused. It did not take her
long to establish the truth of the matter, and her eyes widened, she let out a
whistle, yet did not waste much time over it but tore open the door of the Samsas'
bedroom and yelled into the darkness at the top of her voice: "Just look
at this, it's dead; it's lying here dead and done for!"
Mr. and Mrs. Samsa started up in their double bed and before they realized the
nature of the charwoman's announcement had some difficulty in overcoming the shock
of it. But then they got out of bed quickly, one on either side, Mr. Samsa throwing
a blanket over his shoulders, Mrs. Samsa in nothing but her nightgown; in this
array they entered Gregor's room. Meanwhile the door of the living room opened,
too, where Grete had been sleeping since the advent of the lodgers; she was completely
dressed as if she had not been to bed, which seemed to be confirmed also by the
paleness of her face. "Dead? " said Mrs. Samsa, looking questioningly
at the charwoman, although she could have investigated for herself, and the fact
was obvious enough without investigation. "I should say so," said the
charwoman, proving her words by pushing Gregor's corpse a long way to one side
with her broomstick. Mrs. Samsa made a movement as if to stop her, but checked
it. "Well," said Mr. Samsa, "now thanks be to God." He crossed
himself, and the three women followed his example. Grete, whose eyes never left
the corpse, said: "lust see how thin he was. It's such a long time since
he's eaten anything. The food came out again just as it went in." Indeed,
Gregor's body was completely flat and dry, as could only now be seen when it was
no longer supported by the legs and nothing prevented one from looking closely
"Come in beside us, Grete, for a little while," said Mrs. Samsa with
a tremulous smile, and Grete, not without looking back at the corpse, followed
her parents into their bedroom. The charwoman shut the door and opened the window
wide. Although it was so early in the morning a certain softness was perceptible
in the fresh air. After all, it was already the end of March.
The three lodgers emerged from their room and were surprised to see no breakfast;
they had been forgotten. "Where's our breakfast?" said the middle lodger
peevishly to the charwoman. But she put her finger to her lips and hastily, without
a word, indicated by gestures that they should go into Gregor's room. They did
so and stood, their hands in the pockets of their somewhat shabby coats, around
Gregor's corpse in the room where it was now fully light.
At that the door of the Samsas' bedroom opened and Mr. Samsa appeared in his uniform,
his wife on one arm, his daughter on the other. They all looked a little as if
they had been crying; from time to time Grete hid her face on her father's arm.
"Leave my house at once!" said Mr. Samsa, and pointed to the door without
disengaging himself from the women. "What do you mean by that?" said
the middle lodger, taken somewhat aback, with a feeble smile. The two others put
their hands behind them and kept rubbing them together, as if in gleeful expectation
of a fine set-to in which they were bound to come off the winners. "I mean
just what I say," answered Mr. Samsa, and advanced in a straight line with
his two companions towards the lodger. He stood his ground at first quietly, looking
at the floor as if his thoughts were taking a new pattern in his head. "Then
let us go, by all means," he said, and looked up at Mr. Samsa as if in a
sudden access of humility he were expecting some renewed sanction for this decision.
Mr. Samsa merely nodded briefly once or twice with meaning eyes. Upon that the
lodger really did go with long strides into the hall, his two friends had been
listening and had quite stopped rubbing their hands for some moments and now went
scuttling after him as if afraid that Mr. Samsa might get into the hall before
them and cut them off from their leader. In the hall they all three took their
hats from the rack, their sticks from the umbrella stand, bowed in silence and
quitted the apartment. With a suspiciousness which proved quite unfounded Mr.
Samsa and the two women followed them out to the landing; leaning over the banister
they watched the three figures slowly but surely going down the long stairs, vanishing
from sight at a certain turn of the staircase on every floor and coming into view
again after a moment or so; the more they dwindled, the more the Samsa family's
interest in them dwindled, and when a butcher's boy met them and passed them on
the stairs coming up proudly with a tray on his head, Mr. Samsa and the two women
soon left the landing and as if a burden had been lifted from them went back into
They decided to spend this day in resting and going for a stroll; they had not
only deserved such a respite from work, but absolutely needed it. And so they
sat down at the table and wrote three notes of excuse, Mr. Samsa to his board
of management, Mrs. Samas to her employer and Grete to the head of her firm. While
they were writing, the charwoman came in to say that she was going now, since
her morning's work was finished. At first they only nodded without looking up,
but as she kept hovering there they eyed her irritably. "Well?" said
Mr. Samsa The charwoman stood grinning in the doorway as if she had good news
to impart to the family but meant not to say a word unless properly questioned.
The small ostrich feather standing upright on her hat, which had annoyed Mr. Samsa
ever since she was engaged, was waving gaily in all directions. "Well, what
is it then?" asked Mrs. Samsa, who obtained more respect from the charwoman
than the others. "Oh," said the charwoman, giggling so amiably that
she could not at once continue, "just this, you don't need to bother about
how to get rid of the thing next door. It's been seen to already." Mrs. Samsa
and Grete bent over their letters again, as if preoccupied; Mr. Samsa, who perceived
that she was eager to begin describing it all in detail, stopped her with a decisive
hand. But since she was not allowed to tell her story, she remembered the great
hurry she was in, being obviously deeply huffed: "Bye, everybody," she
said, whirling off violently, and departed with a frightful slamming of doors.
"She'll be given notice tonight," said Mr. Samsa, but neither from his
wife nor his daughter did he get any answer, for the charwoman seemed to have
shattered again the composure they had barely achieved. They rose, went to the
window and stayed there, clasping each other tight. Mr. Samsa turned in his chair
to look at them and quietly observed them for a little. Then he called out: "Come
along, now, do. Let bygones be bygones. And you might have some consideration
for me." The two of them complied at once, hastened to him, caressed him
and quickly finished their letters.
Then they all three left the apartment together, which was more than they had
done for months, and went by tram into the open country outside the town. The
tram, in which they were the only passengers, was filled with warm sunshine. Leaning
comfortably back in their seats they canvassed their prospects for the future,
and it appeared on closer inspection that these were not at all bad, for the jobs
they had got, which so far they had never really discussed with each other, were
all three admirable and likely to lead to better things later on. The greatest
immediate improvement in their condition would of course arise from moving to
another house; they wanted to take a smaller and cheaper but also better situated
and more easily run apartment than the one they had, which Gregor had selected.
While they were thus conversing, it struck both Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, almost at
the same moment, as they became aware of their daughter's increasing vivacity,
that in spite of all the sorrow of recent times, which had made her cheeks pale,
she had bloomed into a pretty girl with a good figure. They grew quieter and half
unconsciously exchanged glances of complete agreement, having come to the conclusion
that it would soon be time to find a good husband for her. And it was like a confirmation
of their new dreams and excellent intentions that at the end of their journey
their daughter sprang to her feet first and stretched her young body.
qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé.
Nietzsche, Gay Science