illustration of a giant insect with the outline of a man in a suit standing within the confines of the insect

The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis Characters

The main characters in The Metamorphosis are Gregor Samsa, Grete, Mr. Samsa, and Mrs. Samsa.

  • Gregor Samsa is a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find that he has transformed into a giant insect.
  • Grete is Gregor's sister. She cares for him after his metamorphosis.
  • Mr. Samsa is a bitter man who lashes out at Gregor and injures him.
  • Mrs. Samsa is a weak woman who defends Gregor but finds his presence intolerable.


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Last Updated on October 31, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 755

Gregor Samsa 

The protagonist, Gregor, is a traveling salesman who wakes up at the beginning of the novella having transformed from a man to an insect. Gregor works hard to support his family after his father’s business goes bankrupt, but he feels dissatisfied with his position. He holds out hope that one day he will work a job that is more fulfilling. Over the course of the novella, Gregor gets accustomed to his new body and instincts, gradually losing his connection to his humanity. He finds he no longer has the same appetite for food he once did, and that, combined with his various injuries, causes him to weaken. He dies the same night his family determines to “get rid” of him, so it could be said that Gregor sacrifices his own life for his family; after his death, they can move on and feel hopeful for the future.

Deputy Director 

The Deputy Director is the second-in-command at Gregor’s workplace. He is sent to find Gregor when he doesn’t show up to work at the start of the novella. The Deputy Director is not given distinctive character traits and plays only a small role in the story. His character mostly serves as a symbol of the relentlessness of the capitalist society that values work and production over all else.

Mrs. Anna Samsa 

Anna is Gregor’s mother, who is shocked by his transformation but wants to maintain a connection with her son, begging to be let into his room in the second chapter of the story. It is her voice that keeps Gregor connected to his humanity when he seems to be moving further and further from his past self. Mrs. Samsa is sensitive to her son’s needs but also seems to be in ill health and unable to cope with his change. Like her husband, she is hopeful at the end of the novella, as she will invest her energy in helping her daughter marry well.

Mr. Samsa 

Gregor’s father once owned a business, but five years before the novella’s start, he declared bankruptcy. As a result, Gregor worked to support the family while his father stayed home and became slothful. When Gregor becomes an insect, his father attacks him, pushing him back into his room, and later violently lashes out at and injures his son. Mr. Samsa must begin working again once Gregor is unable to do so, and it seems as though there was really no reason why he needed to stop working while Gregor became the sole breadwinner. As an employee of a bank, Mr. Samsa quickly makes himself into a devoted corporate cog, insisting on getting good sleep simply so he can return to work the next morning. When the lodgers join the household, Mr. Samsa humbly gives over the run of the apartment to them, while he has his family eat in the kitchen and stay out of the living room in the evenings. He finally stands up to the lodgers after Gregor’s death and seems devoted to helping his family move on and seek a better future.

Grete Samsa 

Grete is Gregor’s sister and his primary caretaker after his transformation. She is a talented violinist who hopes to one day attend a conservatory, but her life changes drastically with Gregor’s metamorphosis. She obviously loves her brother and is concerned for his well-being, but she is afraid of him, too. She is very cautious when dealing with his food and the possessions in his room; for example, she picks up his dishes with a rag rather than handling them with her bare hands. Grete tries...

(This entire section contains 755 words.)

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to accept her brother’s new form and make his room comfortable and navigable by moving furniture out of his way. In return for her kindness, Gregor attempts to hide himself under a sheet when she comes in so she is spared having to look at his grotesque form. Once Grete starts working as a sales clerk, while also training for a clerical job at night, she is too tired to dedicate much time and energy to Gregor’s care; she becomes hasty in her cleaning routine and seems to actively avoid her brother. Grete eventually tries to convince her parents that this being is no longer Gregor and that they must find a way to get rid of “it.” By the end of the novella, Grete is quite pretty and has reached a marriageable age, so her parents look forward hopefully to her future.