The Metamorphosis (3 of 3)

Uploaded by The16thCavern on 15.11.2012

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
III. Gregor's serious wound, from which he suffered
for over a month—since no one ventured to remove the apple, it remained in his flesh
as a visible reminder—seemed by itself to have reminded the father that, in spite of
his present unhappy and hateful appearance, Gregor was a member of the family, something
one should not treat as an enemy, and that it was, on the contrary, a requirement of
family duty to suppress one's aversion and to endure--nothing else, just endure. And
if through his wound Gregor had now apparently lost for good his ability to move and for
the time being needed many, many minutes to crawl across his room, like an aged invalid—so
far as creeping up high was concerned, that was unimaginable—nevertheless for this worsening
of his condition, in his opinion, he did get completely satisfactory compensation, because
every day towards evening the door to the living room, which he was in the habit of
keeping a sharp eye on even one or two hours beforehand, was opened, so that he, lying
down in the darkness of his room, invisible from the living room, could see the entire
family at the illuminated table and listen to their conversation, to a certain extent
with their common permission, a situation quite different from what had happened before.
Of course, it was no longer the animated social interaction of former times, which Gregor
in small hotel rooms had always thought about with a certain longing, when, tired out, he
had had to throw himself into the damp bedclothes. For the most part what went on now was very
quiet. After the evening meal, the father fell asleep quickly in his arm chair. The
mother and sister talked guardedly to each other in the stillness. Bent far over, the
mother sewed fine undergarments for a fashion shop. The sister, who had taken on a job as
a salesgirl, in the evening studied stenography and French, so as perhaps later to obtain
a better position. Sometimes the father woke up and, as if he was quite ignorant that he
had been asleep, said to the mother "How long you have been sewing today?" and went right
back to sleep, while the mother and the sister smiled tiredly to each other.
With a sort of stubbornness the father refused to take off his servant's uniform even at
home, and while his sleeping gown hung unused on the coat hook, the father dozed completely
dressed in his place, as if he was always ready for his responsibility and even here
was waiting for the voice of his superior. As a result, in spite of all the care of the
mother and sister, his uniform, which even at the start was not new, grew dirty, and
Gregor looked, often for the entire evening, at this clothing, with stains all over it
and with its gold buttons always polished, in which the old man, although very uncomfortable,
slept peacefully nonetheless. As soon as the clock struck ten, the mother
tried gently encouraging the father to wake up and then persuading him to go to bed, on
the ground that he couldn't get a proper sleep here and that the father, who had to report
for service at six o'clock, really needed a good sleep. But in his stubbornness, which
had gripped him since he had become a servant, he insisted always on staying even longer
by the table, although he regularly fell asleep and then could only be prevailed upon with
the greatest difficulty to trade his chair for the bed. No matter how much the mother
and sister might at that point work on him with small admonitions, for a quarter of an
hour he would remain shaking his head slowly, his eyes closed, without standing up. The
mother would pull him by the sleeve and speak flattering words into his ear; the sister
would leave her work to help her mother, but that would not have the desired effect on
the father. He would settle himself even more deeply in his arm chair. Only when the two
women grabbed him under the armpits would he throw his eyes open, look back and forth
at the mother and sister, and habitually say "This is a life. This is the peace and quiet
of my old age." And propped up by both women, he would heave himself up elaborately, as
if for him it was the greatest trouble, allow himself to be led to the door by the women,
wave them away there, and proceed on his own from there, while the mother quickly threw
down her sewing implements and the sister her pen in order to run after the father and
help him some more. In this overworked and exhausted family who
had time to worry any longer about Gregor more than was absolutely necessary? The household
was constantly getting smaller. The servant girl was now let go. A huge bony cleaning
woman with white hair flying all over her head came in the morning and evening to do
the heaviest work. The mother took care of everything else in addition to her considerable
sewing work. It even happened that various pieces of family jewellery, which previously
the mother and sister had been overjoyed to wear on social and festive occasions, were
sold, as Gregor found out in the evening from the general discussion of the prices they
had fetched. But the greatest complaint was always that they could not leave this apartment,
which was too big for their present means, since it was impossible to imagine how Gregor
might be moved. But Gregor fully recognized that it was not just consideration for him
which was preventing a move, for he could have been transported easily in a suitable
box with a few air holes. The main thing holding the family back from a change in living quarters
was far more their complete hopelessness and the idea that they had been struck by a misfortune
like no one else in their entire circle of relatives and acquaintances.
What the world demands of poor people they now carried out to an extreme degree. The
father bought breakfast to the petty officials at the bank, the mother sacrificed herself
for the undergarments of strangers, the sister behind her desk was at the beck and call of
customers, but the family's energies did not extend any further. And the wound in his back
began to pain Gregor all over again, when now mother and sister, after they had escorted
the father to bed, came back, let their work lie, moved close together, and sat cheek to
cheek and when his mother would now say, pointing to Gregor's room, "Close the door, Grete,"
and when Gregor was again in the darkness, while close by the women mingled their tears
or, quite dry eyed, stared at the table. Gregor spent his nights and days with hardly
any sleep. Sometimes he thought that the next time the door opened he would take over the
family arrangements just as he had earlier. In his imagination appeared again, after a
long time, his employer and supervisor and the apprentices, the excessively spineless
custodian, two or three friends from other businesses, a chambermaid from a hotel in
the provinces, a loving fleeting memory, a female cashier from a hat shop, whom he had
seriously but too slowly courted--they all appeared mixed in with strangers or people
he had already forgotten, but instead of helping him and his family, they were all unapproachable,
and he was happy to see them disappear. But then he was in no mood to worry about
his family. He was filled with sheer anger over the wretched care he was getting, even
though he couldn't imagine anything which he might have an appetite for. Still, he made
plans about how he could take from the larder what he at all account deserved, even if he
wasn't hungry. Without thinking any more about how they might be able to give Gregor special
pleasure, the sister now kicked some food or other very quickly into his room in the
morning and at noon, before she ran off to her shop, and in the evening, quite indifferent
to whether the food had perhaps only been tasted or, what happened most frequently,
remained entirely undisturbed, she whisked it out with one sweep of her broom. The task
of cleaning his room, which she now always carried out in the evening, could not be done
any more quickly. Streaks of dirt ran along the walls; here and there lay tangles of dust
and garbage. At first, when his sister arrived, Gregor positioned himself in a particularly
filthy corner in order with this posture to make something of a protest. But he could
have well stayed there for weeks without his sister's changing her ways. In fact, she perceived
the dirt as much as he did, but she had decided just to let it stay.
In this business, with a touchiness which was quite new to her and which had generally
taken over the entire family, she kept watch to see that the cleaning of Gregor's room
remained reserved for her. Once his mother had undertaken a major cleaning of Gregor's
room, which she had only completed successfully after using a few buckets of water. But the
extensive dampness made Gregor sick and he lay supine, embittered and immobile on the
couch. However, the mother's punishment was not delayed for long. For in the evening the
sister had hardly observed the change in Gregor's room before she ran into the living room mightily
offended and, in spite of her mother's hand lifted high in entreaty, broke out in a fit
of crying. Her parents—the father had, of course, woken up with a start in his arm chair—at
first looked at her astonished and helpless, until they started to get agitated. Turning
to his right, the father heaped reproaches on the mother that she was not to take over
the cleaning of Gregor's room from the sister and, turning to his left, he shouted at the
sister that she would no longer be allowed to clean Gregor's room ever again, while the
mother tried to pull the father, beside himself in his excitement, into the bed room. The
sister, shaken by her crying fit, pounded on the table with her tiny fists, and Gregor
hissed at all this, angry that no one thought about shutting the door and sparing him the
sight of this commotion. But even when the sister, exhausted from her
daily work, had grown tired of caring for Gregor as she had before, even then the mother
did not have to come at all on her behalf. And Gregor did not have to be neglected. For
now the cleaning woman was there. This old widow, who in her long life must have managed
to survive the worst with the help of her bony frame, had no real horror of Gregor.
Without being in the least curious, she had once by chance opened Gregor's door. At the
sight of Gregor, who, totally surprised, began to scamper here and there, although no one
was chasing him, she remained standing with her hands folded across her stomach staring
at him. Since then she did not fail to open the door furtively a little every morning
and evening to look in on Gregor. At first, she also called him to her with words which
she presumably thought were friendly, like "Come here for a bit, old dung beetle!" or
"Hey, look at the old dung beetle!" Addressed in such a manner, Gregor answered nothing,
but remained motionless in his place, as if the door had not been opened at all. If only,
instead of allowing this cleaning woman to disturb him uselessly whenever she felt like
it, they had given her orders to clean up his room every day! One day in the early morning—a
hard downpour, perhaps already a sign of the coming spring, struck the window panes—when
the cleaning woman started up once again with her usual conversation, Gregor was so bitter
that he turned towards her, as if for an attack, although slowly and weakly. But instead of
being afraid of him, the cleaning woman merely lifted up a chair standing close by the door
and, as she stood there with her mouth wide open, her intention was clear: she would close
her mouth only when the chair in her hand had been thrown down on Gregor's back. "This
goes no further, all right?" she asked, as Gregor turned himself around again, and she
placed the chair calmly back in the corner. Gregor ate hardly anything any more. Only
when he chanced to move past the food which had been prepared did he, as a game, take
a bit into his mouth, hold it there for hours, and generally spit it out again. At first
he thought it might be his sadness over the condition of his room which kept him from
eating, but he very soon became reconciled to the alterations in his room. People had
grown accustomed to put into storage in his room things which they couldn't put anywhere
else, and at this point there were many such things, now that they had rented one room
of the apartment to three lodgers. These solemn gentlemen—all three had full beards, as
Gregor once found out through a crack in the door—were meticulously intent on tidiness,
not only in their own room but, since they had now rented a room here, in the entire
household, and particularly in the kitchen. They simply did not tolerate any useless or
shoddy stuff. Moreover, for the most part they had brought with them their own pieces
of furniture. Thus, many items had become superfluous, and these were not really things
one could sell or things people wanted to throw out. All these items ended up in Gregor's
room, even the box of ashes and the garbage pail from the kitchen. The cleaning woman,
always in a hurry, simply flung anything that was momentarily useless into Gregor's room.
Fortunately Gregor generally saw only the relevant object and the hand which held it.
The cleaning woman perhaps was intending, when time and opportunity allowed, to take
the stuff out again or to throw everything out all at once, but in fact the things remained
lying there, wherever they had ended up at the first throw, unless Gregor squirmed his
way through the accumulation of junk and moved it. At first he was forced to do this because
otherwise there was no room for him to creep around, but later he did it with a growing
pleasure, although after such movements, tired to death and feeling wretched, he didn't budge
for hours. Because the lodgers sometimes also took their
evening meal at home in the common living room, the door to the living room stayed shut
on many evenings. But Gregor had no trouble at all going without the open door. Already
on many evenings when it was open he had not availed himself of it, but, without the family
noticing, was stretched out in the darkest corner of his room. However, once the cleaning
woman had left the door to the living room slightly ajar, and it remained open even when
the lodgers came in in the evening and the lights were put on. They sat down at the head
of the table, where in earlier days the mother, the father, and Gregor had eaten, unfolded
their serviettes, and picked up their knives and forks. The mother immediately appeared
in the door with a dish of meat and right behind her the sister with a dish piled high
with potatoes. The food gave off a lot of steam. The gentlemen lodgers bent over the
plate set before them, as if they wanted to check it before eating, and in fact the one
who sat in the middle—for the other two he seemed to serve as the authority—cut
off a piece of meat still on the plate obviously to establish whether it was sufficiently tender
and whether or not something should be shipped back to the kitchen. He was satisfied, and
mother and sister, who had looked on in suspense, began to breathe easily and to smile.
The family itself ate in the kitchen. In spite of that, before the father went into the kitchen,
he came into the room and with a single bow, cap in hand, made a tour of the table. The
lodgers rose up collectively and murmured something in their beards. Then, when they
were alone, they ate almost in complete silence. It seemed odd to Gregor that, out of all the
many different sorts of sounds of eating, what was always audible was their chewing
teeth, as if by that Gregor should be shown that people needed their teeth to eat and
that nothing could be done even with the most handsome toothless jawbone. "I really do have
an appetite," Gregor said to himself sorrowfully, "but not for these things. How these lodgers
stuff themselves, and I am dying." On this very evening the violin sounded from
the kitchen. Gregor didn't remember hearing it all through this period. The lodgers had
already ended their night meal, the middle one had pulled out a newspaper and had given
each of the other two a page, and they were now leaning back, reading and smoking. When
the violin started playing, they became attentive, got up, and went on tiptoe to the hall door,
at which they remained standing pressed up against one another. They must have been audible
from the kitchen, because the father called out "Perhaps the gentlemen don't like the
playing? It can be stopped at once." "On the contrary," stated the lodger in the middle,
"might the young woman not come into us and play in the room here, where it is really
much more comfortable and cheerful?" "Oh, thank you," cried out the father, as if he
were the one playing the violin. The men stepped back into the room and waited. Soon the father
came with the music stand, the mother with the sheet music, and the sister with the violin.
The sister calmly prepared everything for the recital. The parents, who had never previously
rented a room and therefore exaggerated their politeness to the lodgers, dared not sit on
their own chairs. The father leaned against the door, his right hand stuck between two
buttons of his buttoned-up uniform. The mother, however, accepted a chair offered by one lodger.
Since she left the chair sit where the gentleman had chanced to put it, she sat to one side
in a corner. The sister began to play. The father and mother,
one on each side, followed attentively the movements of her hands. Attracted by the playing,
Gregor had ventured to advance a little further forward and his head was already in the living
room. He scarcely wondered about the fact that recently he had had so little consideration
for the others. Earlier this consideration had been something he was proud of. And for
that very reason he would have had at this moment more reason to hide away, because as
a result of the dust which lay all over his room and flew around with the slightest movement,
he was totally covered in dirt. On his back and his sides he carted around with him dust,
threads, hair, and remnants of food. His indifference to everything was much too great for him to
lie on his back and scour himself on the carpet, as he often had done earlier during the day.
In spite of his condition he had no timidity about inching forward a bit on the spotless
floor of the living room. In any case, no one paid him any attention.
The family was all caught up in the violin playing. The lodgers, by contrast, who for
the moment had placed themselves, hands in their trouser pockets, behind the music stand
much too close to the sister, so that they could all see the sheet music, something that
must certainly bother the sister, soon drew back to the window conversing in low voices
with bowed heads, where they then remained, worriedly observed by the father. It now seemed
really clear that, having assumed they were to hear a beautiful or entertaining violin
recital, they were disappointed and were allowing their peace and quiet to be disturbed only
out of politeness. The way in which they all blew the smoke from their cigars out of their
noses and mouths in particular led one to conclude that they were very irritated. And
yet his sister was playing so beautifully. Her face was turned to the side, her gaze
followed the score intently and sadly. Gregor crept forward still a little further, keeping
his head close against the floor in order to be able to catch her gaze if possible.
Was he an animal that music so captivated him? For him it was as if the way to the unknown
nourishment he craved was revealing itself. He was determined to press forward right to
his sister, to tug at her dress, and to indicate to her in this way that she might still come
with her violin into his room, because here no one valued the recital as he wanted to
value it. He did not wish to let her go from his room any more, at least not as long as
he lived. His frightening appearance would for the first time become useful for him.
He wanted to be at all the doors of his room simultaneously and snarl back at the attackers.
However, his sister should not be compelled but would remain with him voluntarily. She
would sit next to him on the sofa, bend down her ear to him, and he would then confide
in her that he firmly intended to send her to the conservatory and that, if his misfortune
had not arrived in the interim, he would have declared all this last Christmas—had Christmas
really already come and gone?—and would have brooked no argument. After this explanation
his sister would break out in tears of emotion, and Gregor would lift himself up to her armpit
and kiss her throat, which she, from the time she started going to work, had left exposed
without a band or a collar. "Mr. Samsa," called out the middle lodger
to the father and, without uttering a further word, pointed his index finger at Gregor as
he was moving slowly forward. The violin fell silent. The middle lodger smiled, first shaking
his head once at his friends, and then looked down at Gregor once more. Rather than driving
Gregor back again, the father seemed to consider it of prime importance to calm down the lodgers,
although they were not at all upset and Gregor seemed to entertain them more than the violin
recital. The father hurried over to them and with outstretched arms tried to push them
into their own room and simultaneously to block their view of Gregor with his own body.
At this point they became really somewhat irritated, although one no longer knew whether
that was because of the father's behaviour or because of knowledge they had just acquired
that they had, without knowing it, a neighbour like Gregor. They demanded explanations from
his father, raised their arms to make their points, tugged agitatedly at their beards,
and moved back towards their room quite slowly. In the meantime, the isolation which had suddenly
fallen upon his sister after the sudden breaking off of the recital had overwhelmed her. She
had held onto the violin and bow in her limp hands for a little while and had continued
to look at the sheet music as if she was still playing. All at once she pulled herself together,
placed the instrument in her mother's lap—the mother was still sitting in her chair having
trouble breathing for her lungs were labouring—and had run into the next room, which the lodgers,
pressured by the father, were already approaching more rapidly. One could observe how under
the sister's practiced hands the sheets and pillows on the beds were thrown on high and
arranged. Even before the lodgers had reached the room, she was finished fixing the beds
and was slipping out. The father seemed so gripped once again with his stubbornness that
he forgot about the respect which he always owed to his renters. He pressed on and on,
until at the door of the room the middle gentleman stamped loudly with his foot and thus brought
the father to a standstill. "I hereby declare," the middle lodger said, raising his hand and
casting his glance both on the mother and the sister, "that considering the disgraceful
conditions prevailing in this apartment and family"—with this he spat decisively on
the floor—"I immediately cancel my room. I will, of course, pay nothing at all for
the days which I have lived here; on the contrary I shall think about whether or not I will
initiate some sort of action against you, something which—believe me—will be very
easy to establish." He fell silent and looked directly in front of him, as if he was waiting
for something. In fact, his two friends immediately joined in with their opinions, "We also give
immediate notice." At that he seized the door handle, banged the door shut, and locked it.
The father groped his way tottering to his chair and let himself fall in it. It looked
as if he was stretching out for his usual evening snooze, but the heavy nodding of his
head, which looked as if it was without support, showed that he was not sleeping at all. Gregor
had lain motionless the entire time in the spot where the lodgers had caught him. Disappointment
with the collapse of his plan and perhaps also weakness brought on by his severe hunger
made it impossible for him to move. He was certainly afraid that a general disaster would
break over him at any moment, and he waited. He was not even startled when the violin fell
from the mother's lap, out from under her trembling fingers, and gave off a reverberating
tone. "My dear parents," said the sister banging
her hand on the table by way of an introduction, "things cannot go on any longer in this way.
Maybe if you don't understand that, well, I do. I will not utter my brother's name in
front of this monster, and thus I say only that we must try to get rid of it. We have
tried what is humanly possible to take care of it and to be patient. I believe that no
one can criticize us in the slightest." "She is right in a thousand ways," said the father
to himself. The mother, who was still incapable of breathing properly, began to cough numbly
with her hand held up over her mouth and a manic expression in her eyes.
The sister hurried over to her mother and held her forehead. The sister's words seemed
to have led the father to certain reflections. He sat upright, played with his uniform hat
among the plates, which still lay on the table from the lodgers' evening meal, and looked
now and then at the motionless Gregor. "We must try to get rid of it," the sister
now said decisively to the father, for the mother, in her coughing fit, was not listening
to anything. "It is killing you both. I see it coming. When people have to work as hard
as we all do, they cannot also tolerate this endless torment at home. I just can't go on
any more." And she broke out into such a crying fit that her tears flowed out down onto her
mother's face. She wiped them off her mother with mechanical motions of her hands.
"Child," said the father sympathetically and with obvious appreciation, "then what should
we do?" The sister only shrugged her shoulders as
a sign of the perplexity which, in contrast to her previous confidence, had come over
her while she was crying. "If only he understood us," said the father
in a semi-questioning tone. The sister, in the midst of her sobbing, shook her hand energetically
as a sign that there was no point thinking of that.
"If he only understood us," repeated the father and by shutting his eyes he absorbed the sister's
conviction of the impossibility of this point, "then perhaps some compromise would be possible
with him. But as it is. . ." "It must be gotten rid of," cried the sister.
"That is the only way, father. You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor.
The fact that we have believed for so long, that is truly our real misfortune. But how
can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life
among human beings is not possible with such an animal and would have gone away voluntarily.
Then we would not have a brother, but we could go on living and honour his memory. But this
animal plagues us. It drives away the lodgers, will obviously take over the entire apartment,
and leave us to spend the night in the alley. Just look, father," she suddenly cried out,
"he's already starting up again." With a fright which was totally incomprehensible to Gregor,
the sister even left the mother, pushed herself away from her chair, as if she would sooner
sacrifice her mother than remain in Gregor's vicinity, and rushed behind her father who,
excited merely by her behaviour, also stood up and half raised his arms in front of the
sister as though to protect her. But Gregor did not have any notion of wishing
to create problems for anyone and certainly not for his sister. He had just started to
turn himself around in order to creep back into his room, quite a startling sight, since,
as a result of his suffering condition, he had to guide himself through the difficulty
of turning around with his head, in this process lifting and banging it against the floor several
times. He paused and looked around. His good intentions seem to have been recognized. The
fright had lasted only for a moment. Now they looked at him in silence and sorrow. His mother
lay in her chair, with her legs stretched out and pressed together; her eyes were almost
shut from weariness. The father and sister sat next to one another. The sister had set
her hands around the father's neck. "Now perhaps I can actually turn myself around,"
thought Gregor and began the task again. He couldn't stop puffing at the effort and had
to rest now and then. Besides, no one was urging him on. It was
all left to him on his own. When he had completed turning around, he immediately began to wander
straight back. He was astonished at the great distance which separated him from his room
and did not understand in the least how in his weakness he had covered the same distance
a short time before, almost without noticing it. Constantly intent only on creeping along
quickly, he hardly paid any attention to the fact that no word or cry from his family interrupted
him. Only when he was already in the door did he
turn his head, not completely, because he felt his neck growing stiff. At any rate he
still saw that behind him nothing had changed. Only the sister was standing up. His last
glimpse brushed over the mother who was now completely asleep. Hardly was he inside his
room when the door was pushed shut very quickly, bolted fast, and barred. Gregor was startled
by the sudden commotion behind him, so much so that his little limbs bent double under
him. It was his sister who had been in such a hurry. She had stood up right away, had
waited, and had then sprung forward nimbly. Gregor had not heard anything of her approach.
She cried out "Finally!" to her parents, as she turned the key in the lock.
"What now?" Gregor asked himself and looked around him in the darkness. He soon made the
discovery that he could no longer move at all. He was not surprised at that. On the
contrary, it struck him as unnatural that up to this point he had really been able up
to move around with these thin little legs. Besides he felt relatively content. True,
he had pains throughout his entire body, but it seemed to him that they were gradually
becoming weaker and weaker and would finally go away completely. The rotten apple in his
back and the inflamed surrounding area, entirely covered with white dust, he hardly noticed.
He remembered his family with deep feelings of love. In this business, his own thought
that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister's. He remained
in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three o'clock
in the morning. From the window he witnessed the beginning of the general dawning outside.
Then without willing it, his head sank all the way down, and from his nostrils flowed
out weakly his last breath. Early in the morning the cleaning woman came.
In her sheer energy and haste she banged all the doors—in precisely the way people had
already asked her to avoid—so much so that once she arrived a quiet sleep was no longer
possible anywhere in the entire apartment. In her customarily brief visit to Gregor she
at first found nothing special. She thought he lay so immobile there because he wanted
to play the offended party. She gave him credit for as complete an understanding as possible.
Since she happened to be holding the long broom in her hand, she tried to tickle Gregor
with it from the door. When that was quite unsuccessful, she became irritated and poked
Gregor a little, and only when she had shoved him from his place without any resistance
did she become attentive. When she quickly realized the true state of affairs, her eyes
grew large, she whistled to herself. However, she didn't restrain herself for long. She
pulled open the door of the bedroom and yelled in a loud voice into the darkness, "Come and
look. It's kicked the bucket. It's lying there, totally snuffed!"
The Samsa married couple sat upright in their marriage bed and had to get over their fright
at the cleaning woman before they managed to grasp her message. But then Mr. and Mrs.
Samsa climbed very quickly out of bed, one on either side. Mr. Samsa threw the bedspread
over his shoulders, Mrs. Samsa came out only in her night-shirt, and like this they stepped
into Gregor's room. Meanwhile, the door of the living room, in which Grete had slept
since the lodgers had arrived on the scene, had also opened. She was fully clothed, as
if she had not slept at all; her white face also seem to indicate that. "Dead?" said Mrs.
Samsa and looked questioningly at the cleaning woman, although she could check everything
on her own and even understand without a check. "I should say so," said the cleaning woman
and, by way of proof, poked Gregor's body with the broom a considerable distance more
to the side. Mrs. Samsa made a movement as if she wished to restrain the broom, but didn't
do it. "Well," said Mr. Samsa, "now we can give thanks to God." He crossed himself, and
the three women followed his example. Grete, who did not take her eyes off the corpse,
said, "Look how thin he was. He had eaten nothing for such a long time. The meals which
came in here came out again exactly the same." In fact, Gregor's body was completely flat
and dry. That was apparent really for the first time, now that he was no longer raised
on his small limbs and nothing else distracted one's gaze.
"Grete, come into us for a moment," said Mrs. Samsa with a melancholy smile, and Grete went,
not without looking back at the corpse, behind her parents into the bed room. The cleaning
woman shut the door and opened the window wide. In spite of the early morning, the fresh
air was partly tinged with warmth. It was already the end of March.
The three lodgers stepped out of their room and looked around for their breakfast, astonished
that they had been forgotten. "Where is the breakfast?" asked the middle one of the gentlemen
grumpily to the cleaning woman. However, she laid her finger to her lips and then quickly
and silently indicated to the lodgers that they could come into Gregor's room. So they
came and stood in the room, which was already quite bright, around Gregor's corpse, their
hands in the pockets of their somewhat worn jackets.
Then the door of the bed room opened, and Mr. Samsa appeared in his uniform, with his
wife on one arm and his daughter on the other. All were a little tear stained. Now and then
Grete pressed her face onto her father's arm. "Get out of my apartment immediately," said
Mr. Samsa and pulled open the door, without letting go of the women. "What do you mean?"
said the middle lodger, somewhat dismayed and with a sugary smile. The two others kept
their hands behind them and constantly rubbed them against each other, as if in joyful anticipation
of a great squabble which must end up in their favour. "I mean exactly what I say," replied
Mr. Samsa and went directly with his two female companions up to the lodger. The latter at
first stood there motionless and looked at the floor, as if matters were arranging themselves
in a new way in his head. "All right, then we'll go," he said and looked up at Mr. Samsa
as if, suddenly overcome by humility, he was asking fresh permission for this decision.
Mr. Samsa merely nodded to him repeatedly with his eyes open wide.
Following that, the lodger actually went with long strides immediately out into the hall.
His two friends had already been listening for a while with their hands quite still,
and now they hopped smartly after him, as if afraid that Mr. Samsa could step into the
hall ahead of them and disturb their reunion with their leader. In the hall all three of
them took their hats from the coat rack, pulled their canes from the cane holder, bowed silently,
and left the apartment. In what turned out to be an entirely groundless mistrust, Mr.
Samsa stepped with the two women out onto the landing, leaned against the railing, and
looked over as the three lodgers slowly but steadily made their way down the long staircase,
disappeared on each floor in a certain turn of the stairwell, and in a few seconds came
out again. The deeper they proceeded, the more the Samsa family lost interest in them,
and when a butcher with a tray on his head come to meet them and then with a proud bearing
ascended the stairs high above them, Mr. Samsa., together with the women, left the banister,
and they all returned, as if relieved, back into their apartment.
They decided to pass that day resting and going for a stroll. Not only had they earned
this break from work, but there was no question that they really needed it. And so they sat
down at the table and wrote three letters of apology: Mr. Samsa to his supervisor, Mrs.
Samsa to her client, and Grete to her proprietor. During the writing the cleaning woman came
in to say that she was going off, for her morning work was finished. The three people
writing at first merely nodded, without glancing up. Only when the cleaning woman was still
unwilling to depart, did they look up angrily. "Well?" asked Mr. Samsa. The cleaning woman
stood smiling in the doorway, as if she had a great stroke of luck to report to the family
but would only do it if she was asked directly. The almost upright small ostrich feather in
her hat, which had irritated Mr. Samsa during her entire service, swayed lightly in all
directions. "All right then, what do you really want?" asked Mrs. Samsa, whom the cleaning
lady still usually respected. "Well," answered the cleaning woman, smiling so happily she
couldn't go on speaking right away, "about how that rubbish from the next room should
be thrown out, you mustn't worry about it. It's all taken care of." Mrs. Samsa and Grete
bent down to their letters, as though they wanted to go on writing. Mr. Samsa, who noticed
that the cleaning woman wanted to start describing everything in detail, decisively prevented
her with an outstretched hand. But since she was not allowed to explain, she remembered
the great hurry she was in, and called out, clearly insulted, "Bye bye, everyone," turned
around furiously and left the apartment with a fearful slamming of the door.
"This evening she'll be let go," said Mr. Samsa, but he got no answer from either his
wife or from his daughter, because the cleaning woman seemed to have upset once again the
tranquillity they had just attained. They got up, went to the window, and remained there,
with their arms about each other. Mr. Samsa turned around in his chair in their direction
and observed them quietly for a while. Then he called out, "All right, come here then.
Let's finally get rid of old things. And have a little consideration for me." The women
attended to him at once. They rushed to him, caressed him, and quickly ended their letters.
Then all three left the apartment together, something they had not done for months now,
and took the electric tram into the open air outside the city. The car in which they were
sitting by themselves was totally engulfed by the warm sun. Leaning back comfortably
in their seats, they talked to each other about future prospects, and they discovered
that on closer observation these were not at all bad, for the three of them had employment,
about which they had not really questioned each other at all, which was extremely favourable
and with especially promising prospects. The greatest improvement in their situation at
this moment, of course, had to come from a change of dwelling. Now they wanted to rent
an apartment smaller and cheaper but better situated and generally more practical than
the present one, which Gregor had found. While they amused themselves in this way, it struck
Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, almost at the same moment, how their daughter, who was getting more animated
all the time, had blossomed recently, in spite of all the troubles which had made her cheeks
pale, into a beautiful and voluptuous young woman. Growing more silent and almost unconsciously
understanding each other in their glances, they thought that the time was now at hand
to seek out a good honest man for her. And it was something of a confirmation of their
new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey their daughter got up
first and stretched her young body.
End of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
Translated by Ian Johnston. Read for LibriVox by David Barnes.