The Metamorphosis


Analysis of Major Characters

Gregor Samsa: Gregor shoulders the responsibility of the Samsa family.  Having not missed a day of work in his five years as a traveling salesman, Gregor is only concerned about his inability to catch the train after his transformation.  He plans to pay off his parents’ debt to his boss within five or six year’s time and is thus confined to an unsatisfying existence.  He is not content with his circumstances, but is unable to do anything about them because he bears the weight of his family’s financial woes.  When the manager comes to his house to inquire as to why Gregor has not shown up for work, Gregor does his best to ingratiate himself with the man in the hope of getting back into his good graces.  Gregor appears subservient and obedient, and his tone is of a beseeching nature as he struggles to capture the manager’s attention.  Throughout the novel Gregor constantly struggles to retain his identity as a member of the family he once solely provided for.  He feels that his recognition as a brother and son is slipping away, and he does his best to ease his family’s discomfort (despite the fact that he is the one having to live as an insect).  The protagonist yearns for acceptance, but receives only resistance and isolation.  Unfortunately, his family is not able to cope with his new lifestyle and is only concerned about its selfish needs.

Grete Samsa: Gregor’s sister, Grete, is the youngest of the family.  After Gregor’s metamorphosis, she undergoes the responsibility of taking care of him.  This may be due to genuine concern for her brother or the nature of young children to want to nurture things (akin to children and puppies).  Nevertheless, Grete thoughtfully provides different options of nourishment to find out what the new Gregor prefers to eat, and cleans his room daily.  Gregor is thankful for his sister’s attention, otherwise the rest of his family might have left him to die.  Throughout the novel, however, Grete’s attachment to her brother’s new body weakens and she loses the connection between the insect and her sibling.  She feels that he has become a burden to the family, and no longer can consider him her brother.  She claims that if the insect really were Gregor, it would have left long ago because it knew it was unwanted.  His confinement allowed for her growing independence, and she in fact undergoes an internal metamorphosis.  She emerges from the situation as a matured version of her former self, but perhaps this was not for the better because with maturity comes the loss of youthful naiveté.  She will now become the source of income for the family as a wife.  
Mr. Samsa: Mr. Samsa, Gregor’s father, had become dependent on his son.  Gregor was working off his parents’ debt, and Mr. Samsa was able to enjoy retirement.  After Gregor’s transformation, however, Mr. Samsa has no choice but to go back into the work force in order to keep his family afloat.  He becomes physically attached to his uniform, and his clothing is a powerful reminder of the family’s new circumstances.  At the same time, Mr. Samsa appears angry with his son for abandoning his responsibilities and making him go back to work.  Mr. Samsa seems disgusted by the insect’s appearance, and kicks his son out of annoyance and frustration.  He even throws apples at Gregor and it feels as if he is trying to kill him.  When Gregor passes away, Mr. Samsa declares, “now we can thank God!”  Gregor’s presence was only a burden on the family and Mr. Samsa, and Mr. Samsa showed no remorse for the loss.  Perhaps he was too traumatized by the experience to express genuine emotion, or perhaps he is too selfish to acknowledge that the true focus should have been placed on Gregor and his feelings.  Nevertheless, Mr. Samsa will proceed to live off his daughter after he marries her to a financially secure husband.

Mrs. Samsa: Mrs. Samsa does not have a large role in the novel, and is overshadowed by the rest of the family members.  After her son is transformed into the insect, she is unable to go into his room and cannot attempt any effort to care of him.  The only time she is indirectly involved with Gregor is when she helps Grete move the furniture out of the room.  She does not want to, in the hope that Gregor will return to his human form, but her daughter convinces her otherwise.  As a mother, Mrs. Samsa is distraught over the loss of her son, but like Grete, loses attachment to his new being.  When Gregor passes away, Mrs. Samsa appears as if she will not linger over what has happened and will be able to move on with her life.  She, with her husband, will financially support themselves by marrying Grete.