6 Gregor & His Sister

Gregor’s sister rushed to his mother and put her hand on her forehead. Her words seemed to give Gregor’s father some more definite ideas. He sat upright, played with his uniform cap between the plates left by the three gentlemen after their meal, and occasionally looked down at Gregor as he lay there immobile.

“We have to try and get rid of it”, said Gregor’s sister, now speaking only to her father, as her mother was too occupied with coughing to listen, “it’ll be the death of both of you, I can see it coming. We can’t all work as hard as we have to and then come home to be tortured like this, we can’t endure it. I can’t endure it any more.” And she broke out so heavily in tears that they flowed down the face of her mother, and she wiped them away with mechanical hand movements.

“My child”, said her father with sympathy and obvious understanding, “what are we to do?”

His sister just shrugged her shoulders as a sign of the helplessness and tears that had taken hold of her, displacing her earlier certainty.

“If he could just understand us”, said his father almost as a question; his sister shook her hand vigorously through her tears as a sign that of that there was no question.

“If he could just understand us”, repeated Gregor’s father, closing his eyes in acceptance of his sister’s certainty that that was quite impossible, “then perhaps we could come to some kind of arrangement with him. But as it is …”

“It’s got to go”, shouted his sister, “that’s the only way, Father. You’ve got to get rid of the idea that that’s Gregor. We’ve only harmed ourselves by believing it for so long. How can that be Gregor? If it were Gregor he would have seen long ago that it’s not possible for human beings to live with an animal like that and he would have gone of his own free will. We wouldn’t have a brother any more, then, but we could carry on with our lives and remember him with respect. As it is this animal is persecuting us, it’s driven out our tenants, it obviously wants to take over the whole flat and force us to sleep on the streets. Father, look, just look”, she suddenly screamed, “he’s starting again!” In her alarm, which was totally beyond Gregor’s comprehension, his sister even abandoned his mother as she pushed herself vigorously out of her chair as if more willing to sacrifice her own mother than stay anywhere near Gregor. She rushed over to behind her father, who had become excited merely because she was and stood up half raising his hands in front of Gregor’s sister as if to protect her.

But Gregor had had no intention of frightening anyone, least of all his sister. All he had done was begin to turn round so that he could go back into his room, although that was in itself quite startling as his pain-wracked condition meant that turning round required a great deal of effort and he was using his head to help himself do it, repeatedly raising it and striking it against the floor. He stopped and looked round. They seemed to have realised his good intention and had only been alarmed briefly. Now they all looked at him in unhappy silence. His mother lay in her chair with her legs stretched out and pressed against each other, her eyes nearly closed with exhaustion; his sister sat next to his father with her arms around his neck.

“Maybe now they’ll let me turn round”, thought Gregor and went back to work. He could not help panting loudly with the effort and had sometimes to stop and take a rest. No-one was making him rush any more, everything was left up to him. As soon as he had finally finished turning round he began to move straight ahead. He was amazed at the great distance that separated him from his room, and could not understand how he had covered that distance in his weak state a little while before and almost without noticing it. He concentrated on crawling as fast as he could and hardly noticed that there was not a word, not any cry, from his family to distract him. He did not turn his head until he had reached the doorway. He did not turn it all the way round as he felt his neck becoming stiff, but it was nonetheless enough to see that nothing behind him had changed, only his sister had stood up. With his last glance he saw that his mother had now fallen completely asleep.

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