It takes Gregor about a month to recover from the wound from the apple. The apple, by the way, is still stuck in his back since no one really feels like going anywhere near him. The apple does have the inexplicable effect of reminding his father and the rest of his family that Gregor is still a member of the family, not just a bug that you can just, well, chuck some apples at. Go figure.
In any case, from this point forward, remember that when we say "Gregor," we mean "Gregor = vermin + apple." Believe us – it makes the rest of the story even more depressing.
Gregor, who is now described as shuffling around with his wound like an "old war veteran" (cue the violins), is now granted the gift of a peek at his family in the evenings (3.2). The door to his room is left slightly ajar so that he can watch them eating dinner and hanging out together in the living room.
All of the members of his family are now employed. After dinner, as his father falls asleep in his bank messenger's uniform, his mother works quietly sewing lingerie and his sister, who's taken a day job as a salesgirl, practices shorthand and French.
From the family conversation, Gregor learns that the family's finances are getting worse. They've had to sell the family jewelry. And they often complain about the expense of staying in their enormous apartment, which they have to do because they have no idea what to do with Gregor.
Gregor hardly sleeps or eats anymore. He alternates between hope – that the next morning he'll wake up as his normal, human self, go back to work, and support his family – and anger at his family for caring so little about what he needs, particularly when it comes to eating.
Gregor notices that his family, in addition to being exhausted all the time, seem to have become particularly irritable, especially Grete. In one instance, Grete discovered that the mother had given Gregor's room a thorough cleaning. Even though Grete has flaked on the cleaning, she still thinks of Gregor's room as her job and hers alone, and she is furious. She yells at the mother, the father yells at them both, the mother pulls the father away into the bedroom. Grete stays behind, sobbing and hitting the table.
Gregor notices that there's some new help in the apartment. Gone is the timid maid who locked herself up in the kitchen because she was so afraid of Gregor. Now the family has a cleaning woman, a sassy old widow, who boldly opens the door to Gregor's room and calls him "you old dung beetle" (3.8). She doesn't seem afraid of him in the least – in fact, she comes in every day and talks to him.
Gregor finds the cleaning woman incredibly irritating. At one point he turns toward her in a slightly menacing way, but the cleaning woman just lifts a chair and threatens him with it.
The family takes in three boarders to make ends meet. The three boarders seem to be serious men, since they all have long beards. They also have a thing about cleanliness.
In order to make room for the boarders, the family starts storing random stuff in Gregor's room, including the trash cans and useless furniture they're unwilling to sell. Gregor amuses himself with moving the stuff around his room, but afterwards he just gets depressed.
The three boarders often take their meals in the living room where the family used to eat, so the door to Gregor's room remains closed.
One night the cleaning lady leaves the door slightly open, so Gregor gets to take a peek at the boarders at the dining table.
His mother and sister bring plates of meat and potatoes. As the boarders dig in, Gregor can't help focusing on the sound of their chewing teeth, teeth he no longer has, wonderful, pointy, human teeth for tearing meat off the bone. Gregor thinks of his own hunger and gets even more depressed.
Then Gregor hears the sound of Grete's violin-playing for the first time since his transformation. The boarder sitting in the middle, who seems to be the lead guy, invites Grete to come into the living room and play. The father leans against the door, as the mother takes a seat in a corner.
Grete begins to play, and Gregor is enthralled. He inches his head out into the living room, not really caring whether the boarders see him or not. At this point, he's covered in dust, lint and scraps of food; he doesn't bother to clean himself any more.
The boarders no longer pay attention to Grete as she continues to play. Instead, they retreat to the window and talk amongst themselves.
Gregor continues to take great pleasure in his sister's playing. He decides that he must crawl out and tug at Grete's skirt to let her know that she must play in his room, because no one else in the room seems to enjoy her music as much as he does. He fantasizes about telling his sister about his plan, before he got turned into a bug, to send her to the music conservatory. In his fantasy, his sister bursts into tears of joy and he manages to give her a kiss on the neck.
All of a sudden, he hears the middle boarder call out to his father, "Mr. Samsa!" (3.15). The middle boarder points at Gregor, who is trying to move across the floor to his sister. At first the boarders seem amused by Gregor, but then they get angry, perhaps at the thought that they've been living with Gregor, a gross bug, all the while.
Agitated by this turn of events, Grete stops playing and places the violin in her mother's lap. She hurries over to the boarders' room and prepares their beds for the night.
Meanwhile, Gregor's father urges the boarders back to their room. When they get to the room, the middle boarder angrily gives notice that the boarders are moving and they don't intend to pay a cent for the time they did spend in the Samsa home. The middle boarder even threatens to sue.
Gregor slumps in the middle of the room, weakened by hunger but also just utterly depressed that his plan to connect with his sister failed.
Grete, on the other hand, is furious. She pounds the table and tells her parents that it is time to get rid of the "monster" whom she refuses to call by the name of her brother (3.17).
The father asks Grete what she thinks they should do. He remarks that if Gregor could only understand them, they could come to some sort of agreement. (Of course, Gregor does understand them…)
Grete insists that Gregor has to go. She interprets his intrusion into the living room as an attempt to take over the entire apartment.
Gregor starts moving back into his room, but his movements terrify his sister, who reads his movements as an attempt to attack her and hides behind her father.
Gregor keeps moving toward his room. His family seems to recognize that he didn't mean to terrify them, and watch him silently as he lumbers along.
When Gregor gets to the door, he allows himself a glance back at his family. His sister stands behind the father, and the mother has fallen asleep in her chair.
As soon as Gregor is in his room, he hears the door slam behind him and the key turn in the lock. It must have been his sister, for he hears her say, "Finally!" (3.28).
Gregor finds himself unable to move, but he's actually comfortable. His pains seem to dwindle, and even the pesky apple in his back doesn't really bother him anymore. He thinks of his family with "deep emotion and love" (3.29). But he also agrees with his sister that he ought to disappear.
These thoughts occupy Gregor until the clock strikes 3 am. He notices that it's getting light outside. His head falls to the floor – and he dies.
Early the next morning the cleaning woman discovers Gregor's body in the middle of the room. After poking him a couple of times to see if he's actually dead, the cleaning woman charges into Mr. and Mrs. Samsa's bedroom to announce that "it" has died (3.30).
Mr. and Mrs. Samsa and Grete join the cleaning woman in Gregor's room. Mr. Samsa crosses himself, and the other women follow his example. They marvel at how incredibly thin and flat Gregor had gotten. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa and Grete retreat into the parents' room.
The cleaning woman opens the window in Gregor's window. It's the end of March, and the morning air is mild.
The boarders come out looking for their breakfast.
Mr. Samsa comes out in his bank messenger's uniform, with Mrs. Samsa and Grete on each arm. He orders the boarders to leave. They don't argue, and the family watches the boarders leave the apartment and go down the stairs. But their attention gets distracted by a butcher's boy who passes them on the stairs. They don't bother seeing if the boarders actually leave the building, but return to the apartment.
The Samsas decide that they're going to take the day off. They proceed to write letters to each of their employers explaining that they're not coming into work today.
The cleaning woman interrupts them. She triumphantly declares that she has gotten rid of everything in Gregor's room (including, perhaps, Gregor's body). She waits for the Samsas to ask her how, but they're really uninterested. They go back to writing their letters.
Miffed, the cleaning woman leaves. The Samsas agree they have to fire her that night.
The cleaning woman's outburst seems to have ruined the general feeling of relief. Mrs. Samsa and Grete hold each other as they look outside the window. Mr. Samsa tells them to get over it and they quickly finish off their letters.
The three of them leave the apartment together and board a trolley out to the country. They're feeling pretty good about life. They've all got jobs and, with Gregor gone, they can get a smaller, more convenient apartment. Almost simultaneously and without speaking to one another, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa notice that Grete has actually grown up into a beautiful, marriageable girl.
As the trolley stops, Grete stands up and stretches.