by Franz Kafka
As Gregor Samsa
awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed
in his bed into a gigantic insect
. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated
, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome
-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segment
s on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk
, waved helplessly before his eyes.
What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream
. His room, a regular human
bedroom, only rather too small, lay quiet between the four familiar walls. Above the table on which a collection of cloth samples was unpacked and spread out - Samsa was a commercial traveler
- hung the picture which he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and put into a pretty gilt
frame. It showed a lady, with a fur cap on and a fur stole
, sitting upright and holding out to the spectator a huge fur muff
into which the whole of her forearm had vanished! Gregor's eyes turned next to the window, and the overcast sky - one could hear rain drops beating on the window gutter - made him quite melancholy
. What about sleeping a little longer and forgetting all this nonsense, he thought, but it could not be done, for he was accustomed to sleep on his right side and in his present condition he could not turn himself over. However violent
ly he forced himself towards his right side he always rolled on to his back again. He tried it at least a hundred times, shutting his eyes to keep from seeing his struggling legs, and only desist
ed when he began to feel in his side a faint dull ache
he had never experienced before.
Oh God, he thought, what an exhausting job I've picked on! Traveling about day in, day out. It's much more irritating
work than doing the actual business in the office
, and on top of that there's the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying about train connections, the bed and irregular
meals, casual acquaintances
that are always new and never become intimate friends
. The devil take it all
! He felt a slight itching up on his belly; slowly pushed himself on his back nearer to the top of the bed so that he could lift his head more easily; identified the itching place which was surrounded by many small white spots the nature of which he could not understand and made to touch it with a leg, but drew the leg back immediately, for the contact made a cold shiver
run through him.
He slid down again into his former position. This getting up early, he thought, makes one quite stupid
. A man needs his sleep. Other commercials live like harem
women. For instance, when I come back to the hotel of a morning to write up the orders I've got, these others are only sitting down to breakfast. Let me just try that with my chief
; I'd be sacked
on the spot. Anyhow, that might be quite a good thing for me, who can tell?
If I didn't have to hold my hand because of my parents
I'd have given notice long ago, I'd have gone to the chief and told him exactly
what I think of him. That would knock him endways
from his desk! It's a queer
way of doing, too, this sitting on high at a desk and talking down
to employees, especially when they have to come quite near because the chief is hard of hearing
. Well, there's still hope; once I've saved enough money to pay back my parents' debts
to him - that should take another five or six years - I'll do it without fail. I'll cut myself completely loose then. For the moment
, though, I'd better get up, since my train goes at five.
He looked at the alarm clock ticking
on the chest. Heavenly Father
! he thought. It was half-past six o'clock and the hands were quietly moving on, it was even past the half-hour, it was getting on toward a quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not gone off? From the bed one could see that it had been properly set for four o'clock; of course it must have gone off. Yes, but was it possible to sleep quietly through that ear-splitting
noise? well he had not slept quietly, yet apparently all the more soundly for that. But what was he to do now? The next train went at seven o'clock; to catch that he would need to hurry like mad and his samples
weren't even packed up, and he himself wasn't feeling particularly fresh
. And even if he did catch the train he wouldn't avoid a row
with the chief, since the firm's porter would have been waiting for the five o'clock train and would have long since reported his failure to turn up. The porter was a creature of the chief's, spineless and stupid. Well, supposing he were to say he was sick? But that would be most unpleasant and would look suspicious
, since during his five years' employment he had not been ill once. The chief himself would be sure to come with the sick-insurance
doctor, would reproach
his parents with their son's laziness and would cut all excuses short by referring to the insurance doctor, who of course regarded all mankind
as perfectly healthy malinger
ers. And would he be so far wrong on this occasion? Gregor really felt quite welt apart from a drowsiness that was utterly superfluous
after such a long sleep, and he was even unusually hungry.
As all this was running through his mind at top speed without his being able to decide to leave his bed - the alarm clock had just struck a quarter to seven - there came a cautious
tap at the door behind the head of his bed.
"Gregor," said a voice - it was his mother's - "it's a quarter to seven. Hadn't you a train to catch?" That gentle voice! Gregor had a shock as he heard his own voice answering hers, unmistakably his own voice, it was true, but with a persistent horrible twittering squeak behind it like an undertone
, that left the words in their clear shape only for the first moment and then rose up reverberating
round them to destroy their sense, so that one could not be sure one had heard them rightly. Gregor wanted to answer at length and explain everything, but in the circumstances he confine
d himself to saying:
"Yes, yes, thank you, Mother, I'm getting up now." The wooden door between them must have kept the change in his voice from being noticeable outside, for his mother contented herself with this statement and shuffled away. Yet this brief exchange of words had made the other members of the family aware that Gregor was still in the house, as they had not expected, and at one of the side doors his father was already knocking, gently, yet with his fist.
"Gregor, Gregor," he called, "what's the matter with you?
" And after a little while he called again in a deeper voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door his sister was saying in a low, plaintive
"Gregor? Aren't you well? Are you needing anything?" He answered them both at once:
"I'm just ready," and did his best to make his voice sound as normal as possible by enunciating
the words very clearly and leaving long pauses between them. So his father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered:
"Gregor, open the door, do." However, he was not thinking of opening the door, and felt thankful for the prudent
habit he had acquired in traveling of locking all doors
during the night, even at home.
His immediate intention was to get up quietly without being disturbed, to put on his clothes and above all eat his breakfast, and only then to consider what else was to be done, since in bed, he was well aware, his meditation
s would come to no sensible conclusion. He remembered that often enough in bed he had felt small aches and pains, probably caused by awkward posture
s, which had proved purely imaginary
once he got up, and he looked forward eagerly to seeing this morning's delusion
s gradually fall away. That the change in his voice was nothing but the precursor
of a severe chill, a standing ailment
of commercial traveler
s, he had not the least possible doubt.
To get rid of the quilt
was quite easy; he had only to inflate
himself a little and it fell off by itself. But the next move was difficult, especially because he was so uncommonly broad
. He would have needed arms and hands to hoist
himself up; instead he had only the numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control
in the least. When he tried to bend one of them it was the first to stretch itself straight; and did he succeed at last in making it do what he wanted, all the other legs meanwhile waved the more wildly in a high degree of unpleasant agitation
. "But what's the use of lying idle in bed
," said Gregor to himself.
He thought that he might get out of bed with the lower part of his body first, but this lower part, which he had not yet seen and of which he could form no clear conception
, proved too difficult to move; it shifted so slowly; and when finally, almost wild with annoyance
, he gathered his forces together and thrust
ly, he had miscalculated the direction and bumped heavily against the lower end of the bed, and the stinging pain he felt informed him that precisely this lower part of his body was at the moment probably the most sensitive
So he tried to get the top part of himself out first, and cautiously moved his head towards the edge of the bed. That proved easy enough, and despite its breadth
the bulk of his body at last slowly followed the movement of his head. Still, when he finally got his head free over the edge of the bed he felt too scared to go on advancing, for after all if he let himself fall in this way it would take a miracle
to keep his head from being injured. And at all costs he must not lose consciousness
now, precisely now; he would rather stay in bed.
But when after a repetition of the same effort
s he lay in his former position again, sighing, and watched his little legs struggling against each other more wildly than ever, if that were possible, and saw no way of bringing any order into this arbitrary
confusion, he told himself again that it was impossible to stay in bed and that the most sensible
course was to risk everything for the smallest hope of getting away from it. At the same time he did not forget meanwhile to remind himself that cool reflection
, the coolest possible, was much better than desperate resolves
. In such moments he focused his eyes as sharply as possible on the window, but, unfortunately, the prospect of the morning fog
, which muffled even the other side of the narrow street, brought him little encouragement and comfort. "Seven o'clock already," he said to himself when the alarm clock chimed again, "seven o'clock already and still such a thick fog
." And for a little while he lay quiet, breathing lightly, as if perhaps expecting such complete repose to restore all things to their real and normal condition.
But then he said to himself: "Before it strikes a quarter past seven I must be quite out of this bed, without fail
. Anyhow, by that time someone will have come from the office to ask for me, since it opens before seven." And he set himself to rocking his whole body at once in a regular rhythm
, with the idea of swinging it out of the bed. If he tipped himself out in that way he could keep his head from injury by lifting it at an acute angle
when he fell. His back seemed to be hard and was not likely to suffer from a fall on the carpet. His biggest worry was the loud crash he would not be able to help making, which would probably cause anxiety
, if not terror
, behind all the doors. still he must take the risk.
When he was already half out of the bed-the new method was more a game than an effort, for he needed only to hitch himself across by rocking to and fro
- it struck him how simple it would be if he could get help
. Two strong people - he thought of his father and the servant girl - would be amply
sufficient; they would only have to thrust their arms under his convex
back, lever him out of the bed, bend down with their burden
and then be patient enough to let him turn himself right over on to the floor, where it was to be hoped his legs would then find their proper function
. Well, ignoring the fact that the doors were all locked, ought he really to call for help? In spite of his misery
he could not suppress
at the very idea
continue: The Metamorphosis 2