The Metamorphosis Characters Analysis & Their Relationships

Characters Analysis

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka has central and supporting characters who interact with Gregor Samsa, the main character. The Samsa family plays a significant role, influencing his emotions the most. Minor Metamorphosis characters have a supporting function. Through them, Kafka gives the reader additional insight into the Samsa family and Gregor in particular. See the article composed by our writers to learn more.

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🌳 The Metamorphosis: Family Tree

The family plays a vital role in the story. After Gregor’s transformation, his parents and sister become his whole world, as he can’t leave the apartment. In this short character map, you can see the whole Samsa family.

The Metamorphosis characters: family tree.

👨 Gregor Samsa

Gregor Samsa is the protagonist of the novel The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. The author gives an insightful description of the character.

Gregor Samsa as a character in The Metamorphosis.

Gregor is a traveling salesman. He resents his job and the unfairness of his higher-ups but works tirelessly to provide for his family. Moreover, he does not have any close or intimate relationships outside of his family circle. It’s all due to the nature of his job and schedule. Gregor loves his father, mother, and sister Grete, none of whom work at the beginning of the story. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s character could be described as an altruistic, devoted family man.

Gregor’s Relationships

Before his transformation, Gregor’s relationship with his family can be pictured clearly. He supports them financially while they give their love back by cleaning his room and encouraging his endeavors. Grete also regularly writes him letters about their routine when Gregor is traveling for business. One could say that the Samsas have every trait of a normal functioning family.

Gregor Samsa Character Analysis

Gregor’s metamorphosis is the key event in the book. One morning Gregor Samsa wakes up only to realize that he turned into a monstrous insect-like creature. This event dramatically affects both Gregor’s character and his relationships with his family.

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How does Gregor react to his transformation? Obviously, at first, he cannot fully grasp the whole image of his situation. In the morning after the bizarre event, his mind is still human, even though it suspects something is wrong. Gregor is confused when he sees how his family reacts to his new look.

Even though the transformation has drastic effects on Gregor’s physique, it barely changes his life in terms of isolation. Before the event, Gregor barely had any intimate or personal relationships outside his family. His job prevented him from doing that. Despite traveling and seeing the world, Gregor was an isolated person. So, after the transformation, his isolation did not suddenly occur but only turned into literal confinement. He was now locked in his bedroom and still separated from social life.

Moreover, his metamorphosis affected the family’s attitude towards him. The disgust and sadness on Mr. Samsa’s face were apparent when he first saw an insect instead of his son. He subconsciously realized that a bug could not financially support anyone.

Even before Gregor’s transformation, Mr. Samsa had the money to pay off the family’s debt but never did so, putting pressure on Gregor to work more. His family took their financial comfort for granted.

Gregor’s metamorphosis brought some personal ups and downs for him. On the one side, Gregor did not have to work anymore, which freed him from his hated job and bosses. However, his primary concern was that he could not earn money to provide for his family. From this point of view, the whole idea of Gregor’s metamorphosis can be interpreted as a metaphor for human laziness.

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Even though Gregor’s physical metamorphosis happens overnight, his mental transformation keeps developing throughout the whole book. Gregor’s inability to communicate causes a disconnection between him and his family. One of the first examples of the conflict between his body and mind happens when he realizes that he prefers rotten food over fresh one. “Am I less sensitive now?” – Gregor asks himself while enjoying his nauseating meal. Gregor’s concerns also gradually switch from thinking about his family to only caring about himself. As his mental metamorphosis develops, crawling around the room and food occupy his mind most of the time.

Nevertheless, Gregor is deeply hurt because of the negligence from his family. In particular, Gregor and Grete’s relationship influences his emotions the most. He only wants the best for his sister. He dreams about sending her to the Conservatorium, so she can practice her violin skills, while her resentment for his vermin lifestyle only grows. In Chapter 3, Gregor is mesmerized by his sister’s violin performance because the melody brings his human emotions back.

In conclusion, throughout the whole novel, Gregor is experiencing a conflict between his body and mind. He dies peacefully in his room, thinking about everyone else’s well-being. One could say that Gregor Samsa’s death freed him of his eternal suffering.

💬 Famous Quotes by Gregor Samsa

“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.”

(Chapter 1)

“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.”

(Chapter 1)

“I’m loyally bound to serve the chief, you know that very well. Besides, I have to provide for my parents and my sister. I’m in great difficulties, but I’ll get out of them again. Don’t make things any worse for me than they are.”

(Chapter 1)

👩 Grete Samsa

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka has a number of characters with complex personalities. One of them is Grete Samsa. But who is Grete in The Metamorphosis?

Grete Samsa as a character in The Metamorphosis.

Grete is one of the main characters in the book. She has a mother, a father, and a brother Gregor. Grete does not work, spends time practicing on her violin. Her brother truly loves her and wishes to pay for her future education.

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Grete appreciates her brother’s devotion to work and family. She regularly sends him letters while he is away. Even though her parents also appreciate Grete, they think of her as “a somewhat useless daughter.”

Grete’s Relationships

After Grete finds out what happened to Gregor, she shows sympathy towards him, unlike her father and mother. Grete starts bringing him food and cleaning his room. However, her sympathy gradually decreases. Even on the first day, the reader can notice that she has hidden disgust towards Gregor when she takes his untouched bowl “with a cloth.” This feeling grows throughout the whole novel. Due to Gregor’s inability to communicate, Grete is frustrated with him, and his insect-like behavior towards the end makes her believe that her brother is no longer there.

What kind of job does Grete have?

After her brother’s transformation in Chapter 1, she started working as a salesgirl, a job very similar to the one Gregor had. But unlike him, she spends her free time educating to become better at her duties.

Grete Samsa Character Analysis

Food is a vital symbol in the novel for the brother-sister relationship. At first, Grete brings her brother a fresh meal which he used to love, but Gregor cannot eat that anymore. So, she starts bringing him rotten food. Later, she loses motivation and empathy, starts neglecting the responsibility of feeding him. Towards the end of the novel, Grete completely gives up on bringing Gregor meals, showing her open loathing towards him. It could illustrate their gradually fading emotional connection. The worse the food, the worse the relationship.

Grete’s feeling of responsibility for caring about Gregor also changes its nature. Her mind becomes corrupted with the sense of power, as she worries more about the fact of taking care of him rather than Gregor’s own needs. When Grete loses her sympathy towards Gregor, she stops caring about him at all.

Grete’s frustration reaches its peak when Gregor interrupts her violin concert in front of the lodgers. Her irritation with her brother and the exhaustion from new duties may have taken their toll on her perception of Gregor’s humanity. She simply cannot cope with the vermin that used to be her brother.

To summarize, Grete’s character develops within the novel. She is having her own “metamorphosis.” In The Metamorphosis, Grete grows from a “useless” daughter to a mature young woman, working a job and taking responsibilities in the family. The Samsa’s view on her changes. After Gregor’s death, the parents notice her sophistication and decide to choose a husband for her. Grete becomes a new hope for the Samsa family.

💬 Famous Quotes by Grete Samsa

“At the other side door his sister was saying in a low, plaintive tone: “Gregor? Aren’t you well? Are you needing anything?””

(Chapter 1)

“My dear parents, said his sister, slapping her hand on the table by way of introduction, “things can’t go on like this. Perhaps you don’t realize that, but I do. I won’t utter my brother’s name in the presence of this creature, and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it. We’ve tried to look after it and to put up with it as far as is humanly possible, and I don’t think anyone could reproach us in the slightest.”

(Chapter 3)

“He must go,” cried Gregor’s sister, “that’s the only solution, Father. You must just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we’ve believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble. But how can it be Gregor? If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can’t live with such a creature, and he’d have gone away on his own accord. Then we wouldn’t have any brother, but we’d be able to go on living and keep his memory in honor. As it is, this creature persecutes us, drives away our lodgers, obviously wants the whole apartment to himself and would have us all sleep in the gutter.”

(Chapter 3)

👴 Mr. Samsa

Mr. Samsa is the father of Gregor and Grete. As a figure of authority in the household, he appears in all chapters of the book.

Father character in The Metamorphosis.

The father leads a retired lifestyle with his wife and takes his financial comfort for granted. He is the first person to become openly aggressive to his son. He subconsciously realizes that a bug cannot support anyone.

Though, he was stunned when he first saw Gregor in his insect form. He “knotted his fist with a fierce expression on his face…, then looked uncertainly around the living room, covered his eyes with his hands and wept till his great chest heaved.” Concerning his character, there is one crucial question:

How does Mr. Samsa change in The Metamorphosis?

He looks old and unhealthy at the beginning of the story, unable to take care of himself, let alone of his family. However, he considers financial stability his responsibility after Gregor’s transformation. So, he finds a job and starts wearing a uniform.

His uniform is one of the crucial symbols in the novel. It gets dirtier as Mr. Samsa’s exhaustion increases. At the end of chapter 2, we see him as an authoritative, impressive, and dangerous figure through Gregor’s eyes. But in chapter 3, he presents as an old man in a nasty uniform that he refuses to take off at home.

💬 Famous Quotes by Mr. Samsa

“Gregor,” said his father now from the left-hand room, “the chief clerk has come and wants to know why you didn’t catch the early train. We don’t know what to say to him. Besides, he wants to talk to you in person. So open the door, please. He will be good enough to excuse the untidiness of your room.”

(Chapter 1)

“Just what I expected,” said his father, “just what I’ve been telling you, but you women would never listen.” It was clear to Gregor that his father had taken the worst interpretation of Grete’s all too brief statement and was assuming that Gregor had been guilty of some violent act.”

(Chapter 2)

“If he could understand us,” repeated the old man, shutting his eyes to consider his daughter’s conviction that understanding was impossible, “then perhaps we might come to some agreement with him. But as it is-“

(Chapter 3)

“Leave my house at once!” said Mr. Samsa, and pointed to the door without disengaging himself from the women. [..] “I mean just what I say,” answered Mr. Samsa, and advanced in a straight line with his two companions towards the lodger.”

(Chapter 3)

👵 Mrs. Samsa

Mrs. Samsa is the wife of Mr. Samsa and the mother of Gregor and Grete, displayed in all chapters. She is a loving and submissive character.

Mother character in The Metamorphosis.

Mrs. Samsa in The Metamorphosis keeps her love for Gregor after his transformation, calling him “her unfortunate son.” However, she cannot bear his new look and faints the first time she sees Gregor.

Mrs. Samsa worries about her son. She is willing to visit Gregor’s room and help taking care of him, but Grete and Mr. Samsa refuse to let her in for her own good.

In chapter 2, she assists Grete in moving furniture from Gregor’s room and questions this action. She wonders whether these familiar objects help her son to keep his humanity. Thus, she expresses her belief that Gregor is a human in an insect body. Later that day, she loses her consciousness again when she encounters her son for the first time in months.

Just as her husband, Mrs. Samsa took Gregor for granted before his transformation. Later in the book, she starts working to support the family.

💬 Famous Quotes by Mrs. Samsa

“He’s not well,” […] “he’s not well, sir, believe me. What else would make him miss a train! The boy thinks about nothing but his work. It makes me almost cross the way he never goes out in the evenings; he’s been here the last eight days and has stayed at home every single evening. He just sits there quietly at the table reading a newspaper or looking through railway timetables. The only amusement he gets is doing fretwork.”

(Chapter 1)

“Do let me in to Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Can’t you understand that I must go to him?”

(Chapter 2)

“And doesn’t it look,” […] “doesn’t it look as if we were showing him, by taking away his furniture, that we have given up hope of his ever getting better and are just leaving him coldly to himself? I think it would be best to keep his room exactly as it has always been, so that when he comes back to us he will find everything unchanged and be able all the more easily to forget what has happened in between.”

(Chapter 2)

🧑 Other Characters

Charwoman

A “gigantic bony” charwoman appears in the last chapter when the Samsas hire her to take care of the house. She is a servant of senior age with a blunt personality who lacks fear towards the giant insect. She is inconsiderate towards Gregor’s suffering and is the one who disposes of his body at the end.

Lodgers

The three lodgers play the role of catalyst in Gregor’s final demise. They are taken up by the Samsas as a prospect of additional income in the last chapter. These are “serious gentlemen… with full beards” who cannot tolerate anything dirty and look down on the family. When the lodgers spot Gregor, they declare that not a dime will be paid to the Samsas.

Chief Clerk

The chief clerk is the unfair boss of Gregor. He appears in the first chapter when he arrives looking for his subordinate, only to run away in horror. Standing near the closed door of Gregor’s room, he accuses the salesman of stealing money and being lazy.

Servant girl

The servant girl works for the Samsa family and appears in the first and second chapters. She is terrified of Gregor. The girl leaves the house when the Samsas are forced to cut on their expenses in the third chapter.

Cook

The cook works for the Samsa family before the events of the novel and at its beginning. She only appears in the second part, begging Mrs. Samsa to let her leave. She departs swiftly after.

Thank you for reading the article! We hope that know you understand The Metamorphosis’ characters better than before. For more information on the themes and symbols of the story, check other articles.

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IvyPanda. "Characters Analysis." August 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-the-metamorphosis/characters-analysis-their-relationships/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Characters Analysis." August 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-the-metamorphosis/characters-analysis-their-relationships/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Characters Analysis'. 9 August.