The opening paragraph of this short story begins with the introduction of Gregor Samsa as a newly transformed insect. The narrator’s intent in regards to this brusque stating of Gregor’s new physical shape, is perhaps to convey Gregor’s own surprised and confused feelings into the reader’s mind. The narrator seems to anticipate what the reader is thinking, as he immediately states that Gregor is transformed, and what shape he now possesses. The narrator pushes his description to unfolding the exact contours of Gregor’s body.
He takes the perspective of Gregor, looking down on his own body, perhaps to heighten the vividness and brutal psychological shock of the first vision of his “numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes. ” The reader is thus enabled, through this first-person point-of-view, to visualise that precise image, which inherently helps the reader better understand the effect of the transformation through Gregor’s perspective. The paragraph detailing Gregor’s metamorphosis is followed by a description of his room and of his non-bug life.
The reader notices that where the first paragraph was leaning towards structure and a coherent and precise description of Gregor, this paragraph seems to consist of more random thoughts than anything else. It’s as if Gregor’s mind is wandering about his room, trying to rebuild his human character, whereas the previous paragraph had completely shattered his notion of humanity. We can see in the following quote just how determined Gregor is to re-ascertain his humanity, ” 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. ” Firstly, the fact that Gregor states very plainly that he lived in a good, human bedroom seems odd, as he feels the need to qualify the normalness of his place of residence through it’s ‘human’ appeal, instead of, say its ‘roomy’ or ‘comfortable’ appeal. Furthermore, the description of his room continues in its peculiarity, as Gregor feels compelled to further solidify the mundane-ness of his room through its ‘four familiar walls’.
It seems that Gregor feels further compelled to make his room normal by depicting it as being of usual dimensions, hence the four walls, which are familiar – a contrast perhaps to his newly acquired uncomfortable feeling of not belonging, of being odd – hence the insect-like shape. The seemingly xenophobic attributes of his new character seriously conflict with the person he used to make himself be. As he states, “Above the table on which a collection of cloth samples was unpacked and spread out – Samsa was a commercial traveler – (… ” The position he held, and assumedly still has, of being a commercial traveler would lead one to believe that Gregor was not antisocial in any way, in fact the reader could assume that Gregor worked as a traveller because of his affinity with people. Yet the manner in which he now describes his room perhaps suggests that a deeper transformation had occurred, one that affected his self-confidence and his personality. Lead by hermit-like comments such as the “four familiar walls”, one can see that Gregor may now find sanctuary in the closeness of these walls, rather than seeking the public world of a traveller.
This reaction is rather evident, as one could assume that any person would feel demoralized after being transformed into a huge bug. Yet where some people may be affected only physically, this transformation seems to have affected Gregor’s psyche as well. Lastly, the end-description of the lady, “sitting upright and holding out to the spectator a huge fur muff into which the whole of her forearm had vanished! ” seems odd, as Gregor’s reaction to the huge fur muff somehow seems detached, like it was the first time he had seen it done.
Ironically, Gregor tells the reader that he had recently framed the picture and had placed it above his desk, which would lead one to believe that he had looked at the picture before hanging it. Moreover, his reaction to the disappearing forearm may be related to the fact that he no longer has any, which would therefore explain his shocked reaction; the fact that a human is being portrayed in some light other than a normal one is both terrifying and appalling to Gregor, a notion that is explained again through his reaction to the picture, and perhaps thus to his physical state.