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Franz Kafka

This article is about the literary work by Franz Kafka. For the biological process, see Metamorphosis.
For other uses, see Metamorphosis (disambiguation).

The Metamorphosis

First edition cover

Author Franz Kafka

Original title Die Verwandlung

Country AustriaHungary, today Czech Republic

Language German

Short story
Absurdist fiction


Publisher Kurt Wolff Verlag, Leipzig

Publication date 1915

Original text Die Verwandlung at German Wikisource

Translation The Metamorphosis at Wikisource

The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is a novella written by Franz Kafka which was
first published in 1915.


o 1.1Part I
o 1.2Part II
o 1.3Part III
o 2.1Gregor Samsa
o 2.2Grete Samsa
o 2.3Mr. Samsa
o 2.4Mrs. Samsa
4English translations
6Adaptations to other media
o 6.1Film
o 6.2Print
o 6.3Stage and opera
o 6.4Music
o 6.5Radio
7In popular culture
9External links

Part I[edit]
One day, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant
insect (the most common translation of the German description ungeheuer Ungeziefer, literally
"monstrous vermin"). He reflects on how dreary life as a traveling salesman is. As he looks at the
wall clock, he notices that he has overslept and missed his train for work. He ponders the
consequences of this delay. Gregor becomes annoyed at how his boss never accepts excuses or
explanations from any of his employees no matter how hard-working they are, displaying an
apparent lack of trusting abilities. Gregor's mother knocks on the door, and he answers her. She is
concerned for Gregor because he is late for work, which is unorthodox for him. Gregor answers his
mother and realizes that his voice has changed, but his answer is short, so his mother does not
notice. His sister, Grete, to whom he is very close, then whispers through the door and begs him to
open it. He tries to get out of bed but is incapable of moving his body. While trying to move, he finds
that his office manager, the chief clerk, has shown up to check on him. He finally rocks his body to
the floor and calls out that he will open the door shortly.
Offended by Gregor's delayed response in opening the door, the clerk warns him of the
consequences of missing work. He adds that Gregor's recent performance has been unsatisfactory.
Gregor disagrees and tells him that he will open the door shortly. Nobody on the other side of the
door has understood a single word he had uttered as Gregor's voice has also transformed, and they
conclude that he is seriously ill. Finally, Gregor manages to unlock and open the door with his
mouth. He apologizes to the office manager for the delay. Horrified by Gregor's appearance, his
mother faints, and the manager bolts out of the apartment. Gregor tries to catch up with him, but his
father drives him back into the bedroom with a shoe and a rolled magazine. Gregor injures himself
squeezing back through the doorway, and his father slams the door shut. Gregor, exhausted, falls

Part II[edit]
Gregor awakens and sees that someone has put milk and bread in his room. Initially excited, he
quickly discovers that he has no taste for milk, once one of his favorites. He settles himself under a
couch. The next morning, his sister comes in, sees that he has not touched the milk, and replaces it
with rotting food scraps, which Gregor happily eats. This begins a routine in which his sister feeds
him and cleans up while he hides under the couch, afraid that his appearance will frighten her.
Gregor spends his time listening through the wall to his family members talking. They often discuss
the difficult financial situation they find themselves in now and that Gregor can't provide them any
help. Gregor had plans of sending Grete to the conservatory to pursue violin lessons, something
everyone else including Grete considered a dream. His incapability of providing for his family,
coupled with his speechlessness, reduces his thought process greatly. Gregor also learns that his
mother wants to visit him, but his sister and father will not let her.
Gregor grows more comfortable with his changed body. He begins climbing the walls and ceiling for
amusement. Discovering Gregor's new pastime, Grete decides to remove some of the furniture to
give Gregor more space. She and her mother begin taking furniture away, but Gregor finds their
actions deeply distressing. He tries to save a picture on the wall of a woman wearing a fur hat, fur
scarf, and fur muff. Gregor's mother sees him hanging on the wall and passes out. Grete angrily
calls out to Gregor the first time anyone has spoken directly to him since his transformation.
Gregor runs out of the room and into the kitchen. He encounters his father, who has just returned
home from work. The father throws apples at Gregor, and one of them sinks into a sensitive spot in
his back and remains lodged there, paralyzing his movements for a month and damaging him
permanently. Gregor manages to get back into his bedroom but is severely injured.

Part III[edit]
One evening, the cleaning lady leaves Gregor's door open while three boarders, whom the family
has taken on for additional income, lounge about the living room. Grete has been asked to play the
violin for them, and Gregor who usually takes care to avoid crossing paths with anyone in the flat
creeps out of his bedroom to listen in the midst of his depression and resultant detachment. The
boarders, who initially seemed interested in Grete, grow bored with her performance, but Gregor is
transfixed by it. One of the boarders spots Gregor, and the rest become alarmed. Gregor's father
tries to shove the boarders back into their rooms, but the three men protest and announce that they
will move out immediately without paying rent because of the disgusting conditions in the apartment.
Grete, who has by now become tired of taking care of Gregor and is realizing the burden his
existence puts on each one in the family, tells her parents they must get rid of Gregor, or they will all
be ruined. Her father agrees, wishing Gregor could understand them and would leave of his own
accord. Gregor does, in fact, understand and slowly moves back to the bedroom. There, determined
to rid his family of his presence, Gregor dies.
Upon discovering Gregor is dead, the family feels a great sense of relief. The father kicks out the
boarders and decides to fire the cleaning lady, who has disposed of Gregor's body. The family takes
a trolley ride out to the countryside, during which they consider their finances. They decide to move
to a smaller apartment to further save money, an act they were unable to carry out in Gregor's
presence. During this short trip, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa realize that, in spite of going through hardships
which have brought an amount of paleness to her face, Grete appears to have grown up into a pretty
and well-figured lady, which leads her parents to think about finding her a husband.

Gregor Samsa[edit]
"Gregor Samsa" redirects here. For other uses, see Gregor Samsa (disambiguation).
Gregor is the main character of the story. He works as a traveling salesman in order to provide
money for his sister and parents. He wakes up one morning finding himself transformed into an
insect. After the metamorphosis, Gregor becomes unable to work and is confined to his room for the
remainder of the story. This prompts his family to begin working once again. Gregor is depicted as
isolated from society and often misunderstands the true intentions of others.
The name "Gregor Samsa" appears to derive partly from literary works Kafka had read. A character
in The Story of Young Renate Fuchs, by German-Jewish novelist Jakob Wassermann (18731934),
is named Gregor Samassa.[1] The Viennese author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose sexual
imagination gave rise to the idea of masochism, is also an influence. Sacher-Masoch (note the
letters Sa-Mas) wrote Venus in Furs (1870), a novel whose hero assumes the name Gregor at one
point. A "Venus in furs" literally recurs in The Metamorphosis in the picture that Gregor Samsa has
hung on his bedroom wall.[2] The name Samsa is similar to "Kafka" in its play of vowels and
consonants: "Five letters in each word. The S in the word Samsa has the same position as the K in
the word Kafka. The A is in the second and fifth positions in both words."[3]

Grete Samsa[edit]
Grete is Gregor's younger sister, who becomes his caretaker after his metamorphosis. Initially Grete
and Gregor have a close relationship, but this quickly fades. While Grete initially volunteers to feed
him and clean his room, she grows increasingly impatient with the burden and begins to leave his
room in disarray out of spite. Her initial decision to take care of Gregor may have come from a desire
to contribute and be useful to the family, since she becomes angry and upset when the mother
cleans his room, and it is made clear that Grete is disgusted by Gregor; she could not enter Gregor's
room without opening the window first because of the nausea he caused her, and leaves without
doing anything if Gregor is in plain sight. She plays the violin and dreams of going to the
conservatory, a dream Gregor had intended to make happen; Gregor had planned on making the
announcement on Christmas Day. To help provide an income for the family after Gregor's
transformation, she starts working as a salesgirl. Grete is also the first to suggest getting rid of
Gregor. At the end of the story, Grete's parents realize that she has become beautiful and full-figured
and decide to consider finding her a husband.

Mr. Samsa[edit]
Mr. Samsa is Gregor's father. After the metamorphosis, he is forced to return to work in order to
support the family financially. His attitude towards his son is harsh; he regards the transformed
Gregor with disgust and possibly even fear, and he attacks him on multiple occasions.

Mrs. Samsa[edit]
Mrs. Samsa is Grete and Gregor's mother. She is initially shocked at Gregor's transformation;
however, she wants to enter his room. This proves too much for her, thus giving rise to a conflict
between her maternal impulse and sympathy, and her fear and revulsion at Gregor's new form.[citation

Dependency tree illustrating the difference in syntax between the first sentence of Kafka's The
Metamorphosis in translation by Ian Johnston and in the original German

Kafka's sentences often deliver an unexpected impact just before the period that being the
finalizing meaning and focus. This is achieved from the construction of sentences in the original
German, where the verbs of subordinate clauses are put at the end. For example, in the opening
sentence, it is the final word, verwandelt, that indicates transformation:
Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Trumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu
einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed
into a gigantic insect-like creature.
These constructions are not directly replicable in English, so it is up to the translator to provide the
reader with the effect of the original text.[4]
English translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as "insect", but this is not strictly
accurate. In Middle High German, Ungeziefer literally means "unclean animal not suitable for
sacrifice"[5] and is sometimes used colloquially to mean "bug" a very general term, unlike the
scientific sounding "insect". Kafka had no intention of labeling Gregor as any specific thing, but
instead wanted to convey Gregor's disgust at his transformation. The phrasing used by Joachim
Neugroschel[6]is: "Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous
vermin",[citation needed] whereas David Wyllie says" "transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin".[7]
However, in Kafka's letter to his publisher of 25 October 1915, in which he discusses his concern
about the cover illustration for the first edition, he uses the term Insekt, saying: "The insect itself is
not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance."[8]
Ungeziefer has sometimes been translated as "cockroach", "dung beetle", "beetle", and other highly
specific terms. The term "dung beetle" or Mistkfer is, in fact, used by the cleaning lady near the end
of the story, but it is not used in the narration.[citation needed] Ungeziefer also denotes a sense of
separation between himself and his environment: he is unclean and must therefore be secluded.[citation

Vladimir Nabokov, who was a lepidopterist as well as a writer and literary critic, insisted that Gregor
was not a cockroach, but a beetle with wings under his shell, and capable of flight. Nabokov left a
sketch annotated, "just over three feet long", on the opening page of his (heavily corrected) English
teaching copy. In his accompanying lecture notes, Nabokov discusses the type of insect Gregor has
been transformed into, concluding that Gregor "is not, technically, a dung beetle. He is merely a big

English translations[edit]
1933: Willa Muir and Edwin Muir
1972: Stanley Corngold
1993: Joachim Neugroschel
1996: Stanley Appelbaum
1999: Ian Johnston (public domain)
2006: audio by David Barnes
2012: audio by David Richardson
2014: audio by Bob Neufeld
2002: David Wyllie
2007: Michael Hofmann
2009: Joyce Crick
2014: Christopher Moncrieff
2014: Susan Bernofsky
2014: audio by Edoardo Ballerini
2014: John R Williams

First print: Die Verwandlung. In: Die Weien Bltter. Eine Monatsschrift. (The White Pages. A
Monthly). ed. Ren Schickele. "Jg. 2" (1915), "H. 10" (October), ps. 11771230.
Smtliche Erzhlungen. paperback, ed. Paul Raabe. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main and
Hamburg 1970. ISBN 3-596-21078-X.
Drucke zu Lebzeiten. ed. Wolf Kittler, Hans-Gerd Koch and Gerhard Neumann, S. Fischer
Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ps. 113200.
Die Erzhlungen. (The stories) ed. Roger Herms, original version S. Fischer Verlag
1997 ISBN 3-596-13270-3
Die Verwandlung. with a commentary by Heribert Kuhn, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main
1999, ISBN 978-3-518-18813-2. (Suhrkamp BasisBibliothek, 13: Text und Kommentar)
Die Verwandlung. Anaconda Verlag, Kln 2005. ISBN 978-3-938484-13-5.
Metamorphosis. Hardcover, 2009 New Translation, Arcturus Publishing Limited. Forward by
William Aaltonen ISBN 978-1-84837-202-3
The Metamorphosis: A New Translation by Susan Bernofsky. Paperback, 2014, W. W. Norton &
Company. ISBN 978-0393347098. David Cronenberg's Introduction to the book was also
published as "The Beetle and the Fly" in The Paris Review.[10]

Adaptations to other media[edit]

There are numerous film versions of the story, including:

A 1975 television film by Jan Nmec.[11]

A 1977 animated short film by Caroline Leaf.[12]
A 1987 television film by Jim Goddard.[citation needed]
A 1993 short film by Carlos Atanes.[citation needed]
A 2002 feature film by Valery Fokin.[13]
A 2004 short film by Fran Estvez.[citation needed]
A 2012 feature film by Chris Swanton.
A 2013 short film by Pencho.[14]
Jacob M. Appel's Scouting for the Reaper contains a telling of the novella in which a rabbi
attempts to arrange a "proper Jewish burial" for Gregor.[15]
Lance Olsen's book, Anxious Pleasures: A Novel After Kafka, retells Kafka's novella from the
points of view of those inside his family and out.
American cartoonist Robert Crumb drew a comic adaptation of the novella, which is included in
the 1993 book Introducing Kafka, an illustrated biography of Kafka also known as Kafka for
Beginners, R. Crumb's Kafka, or simply Kafka.
American comic artist Peter Kuper illustrated a graphic-novel version, first published by
the Crown Publishing Group in 2003.[16]
Marc Estrin's debut surrealist novel, Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor
Samsa (2002),[17] "resurrects Kafka's half-cockroach Gregor character"[18] vis--vis the world
between 1915 and 1945.
East Press published a manga version of the story in 2008 as part of their Manga de
Dokuha line.[19]
Stage and opera[edit]
Steven Berkoff performed a stage adaptation in 1969. Berkoff's text was also used for
the libretto to Brian Howard's 1983 opera Metamorphosis.[20] In 1989 Berkoff directed
a Broadway production of a play, adapted by Berkoff, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ren
Auberjonois that opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.[21]
Another stage adaptation was performed in 2006 as a co-production between
the Icelandic company Vesturport and the Lyric Hammersmith, adapted and directed by Gsli
rn Gararsson and David Farr, with a music soundtrack performed by Nick Cave and Warren
Ellis.[22] It was also performed at the Sydney Theatre Company as part of a world tour in
2009[23] and returned to the Lyric Hammersmith in January 2013, starring Gararsson as Gregor
in 1988, Philip Glass composed and performed a five movement arrangement called
Metamorphosis. It refers to and was inspired by Kafka's novel and has been used for recorded
readings and stage performances of the material.
A radio drama, combining Metamorphosis with Dr. Seuss performed by David
Rakoff and Jonathan Goldstein and produced by Jonathan Goldstein and Mira Burt-
Wintonick with Cristal Duhaime, was broadcast in 2008, on CBC Radio One's
program Wiretap in 2008.[24] In 2012, it was broadcast on This American Life[25]
In 2015, BBC Radio 4 adapted the novella for radio to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its
publication with the story being read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.[26]
2011 'The Meowmorphosis' was released by Quirk Books as part of the Quirk Classics series; a
'mash-up' retelling by Coleridge Cook, where Gregor Samsa wakes up as an adorable kitten,
instead of a hideous insect.[27]

In popular culture[edit]

The Metamorphosis was reprinted in the June 1953 issue of the pulp magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

The 1995 short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life by Peter Capaldi tells the story of an
author trying to write the opening line of The Metamorphosis and experimenting with various
things that Gregor might turn into, such as a banana or a kangaroo. The short is also notable for
a number of Kafkaesque moments. It won the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film.[28]
In episode 470 of Ira Glass' public radio documentary series "This American Life," a man named
Samsa, who believes he's turning into a cockroach, reaches out to Dr. Seuss for advice. The
doctor, however, will only respond in rhyme. The story was written and performed by David
Rakoff and Jonathan Goldestein, with a cameo by Julie Snyder. It originally aired on the CBC
show Wiretap.[29]
In Mel Brooks' film The Producers, Max Bialystok and Leo Blum read scripts of plays in order to
find a "sure-fire flop" for their scheme to work. Bialystok reads one script starting with the
sentence, "Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover he had been transformed into a giant
cockroach.". He throws the script onto a pile with the words, "Na, it's too good!".
In Mel Brooks' film Spaceballs, during the climax of the comedy, when Spaceball-1 transforms
into Mega-Maid, the main antagonist Dark Helmet leans towards Colonel Sandurz and asks
"Ready, Kafka?".[30]
In the 2006 animated film Flushed Away, a stove falls through the floor of a house to show an
annoyed cockroach sitting behind it, reading a French translation of Kafka's The
The 2002 anthology Dreaming of Angels, edited by Monica J. O'Rourke and Gord Rollo,
contains a short story titled "Mickeymorphosis", in which the main character awakens to discover
that he's turned into Mickey Mouse.[32]
2007's Kockroach, by William Lashner under the name "Tyler Knox", inverts the premise by
transforming a cockroach into a human; Lashner has stated that The Metamorphosis is "the
obvious starting point for" Kockroach, and that his choice of pseudonym was made in honor of
Josef K (of Kafka's The Trial).[33]

1. Jump up^
2. Jump up^ Kafka (1996, 3).
3. Jump up^ Kafka (1996, 3 & 75).
4. Jump up^ Kafka, Franz (1996). The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. p. xi. ISBN 1-56619-969-7.
5. Jump up^ 'Etymologisches Wrterbuch des Deutschen'. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.
1993. p. 1486. ISBN 3423325119.
6. Jump up^ ISBN 0-684-80070-5
7. Jump up^ Kafka, Franz. "Metamorphosis". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
8. Jump up^ Briefe und Tagebcher 1915 (Franz Kafka) ELibraryAustria
9. Jump up^ Nabokov, Vladimir (1980). Lectures on Literature. New York, New York: Harvest. p. 260.
10. Jump up^ Cronenberg, David (17 January 2014). "The Beetle and the Fly". The Paris Review.
Retrieved 29 December 2014.
11. Jump up^ Die Verwandlung on Internet Movie Database
12. Jump up^ The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa on Internet Movie Database
13. Jump up^ Prevrashchenie on Internet Movie Database
14. Jump up^ Die Verwandlung on Internet Movie Database
15. Jump up^ "The Vermin Episode," Scouting for the Reaper, Black Lawrence Press, 2014
16. Jump up^ "Franz Kafka's THE METAMORPHOSIS adapted by Peter
Kuper". Retrieved 2016-01-17.
17. Jump up^ ISBN 1-932961-09-7
18. Jump up^ San Francisco Chronicle
19. Jump up^ , ; , (2008-04-01). . :
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20. Jump up^ "Brian Howard - Metamorphosis - Opera". Retrieved 2016-01-17.
21. Jump up^ "Metamorphosis | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information".
Retrieved 2016-01-17.
22. Jump up^ "Vesturport Metamorphosis". Vesturport. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
23. Jump up^ Schonberger, Robert. "At Sydney Theatre, again". Retrieved 29 December2014.
24. Jump up^ "Help Me, Doctor". CBC Player. 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
25. Jump up^ "Transcript | This American Life". Retrieved 2016-01-17.
26. Jump up^ "Episode 1, Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis - BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC. Retrieved 2016-01-
27. Jump up^ "The Meowmorphosis | Quirk Books : Publishers & Seekers of All Things
Awesome". Retrieved 2016-01-17.
28. Jump up^ Kenley-Letts, Ruth (1993). "Franz Kafka's "It's a Wonderful Life" (1993)". New York Times.
Retrieved August 4, 2012.
29. Jump up^
30. Jump up^
31. Jump up^
32. Jump up^ O'Rourke, Monica J. and Rollo, Gord (2002). Dreaming of Angels, Prime Books,
Maryland. ISBN 1-894815-07-6.
33. Jump up^ William Lashners Metamorphosis, by Rob Hart, at; published March
1, 2010; retrieved March 10, 2015