by Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stanley Corngold's translation.
He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, could barely cling. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes. (1.1)
This passage accentuates Gregor's lack of control over his new body. The body itself is described as an impermeable thing, like a tank. Gregor can only look at his legs; he can't control their movements.
He felt a slight itching up on top of his belly […] found the itchy spot, studded with small white dots which he had no idea what to make of, and wanted to touch the spot with one of his legs but immediately pulled it back, for the contact sent a cold shiver through him. (1.4.)
It's ironic that Gregor can't stand touching himself, even to relieve an itch, when he experiences everything through his own skin, or rather, on the surface of his bug body.
"Human beings have to have their sleep." (1.5)
Is Kafka suggesting here that Gregor turned into a bug because he didn't get enough sleep? That's a good one to try on your parents or anyone else the next time they try to wake you up early. In any case, you'll find Gregor making all kinds of statements in the story that are ironic because of the context. That is, what would normally be a obvious statement – everyone agrees that human beings need sleep – becomes absurd in view of the fact that Gregor is a bug. (This, by the way, is what literary critics call "dramatic irony.")