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.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 347

Gregor Samsa

Gregor Samsa, a young traveling salesman who awakes one morning to find himself transformed into a hideous vermin. Self-effacing to the point of suicide, he dutifully leaves the family apartment early every day for a job he hates so that he can pay off his father’s debts. Incapacitated by his new physical form and scorned by his mother, father, and sister, he expires of his own volition.

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Grete Samsa

Grete Samsa, Gregor’s younger sister, an aspiring violinist whose studies at a musical conservatory Gregor hopes to be able to finance. After the metamorphosis, she shows some compassion for her deformed brother but eventually comes to share her parents’ belief that all would be best if Gregor disappeared.

Mr. Samsa

Mr. Samsa, Gregor’s father, a stern disciplinarian who violently attacks Gregor when his deformed son dares venture out of his room. Following a business failure, Mr. Samsa sits around the apartment reading the newspaper while Gregor is off at work earning money to pay off his debts. After Gregor’s metamorphosis, he gets a job as a bank guard.

Anna Samsa

Anna Samsa, Gregor’s mother. Following Gregor’s metamorphosis, she gets a job making underwear. She acquiesces to her husband’s insistence that Gregor must disappear.

The Chief Clerk

The Chief Clerk, Gregor’s immediate boss at the sales firm. When, after five years of exemplary service, Gregor once fails to catch the five o’clock train to work, the Chief Clerk immediately rushes to Gregor’s apartment to demand an explanation.

The Three Lodgers

The three lodgers, unnamed and indistinguishable men. Each sports an identical full beard. The Samsas provide them room and board when Gregor is no longer able to bring in a salary. They voice their disgust at the sight of Gregor. After his death, they are peremptorily evicted by his newly assertive father.

The Charwoman

The charwoman, an old widow who adopts a matter-of-fact attitude toward her responsibility of cleaning up after the verminous Gregor. After discovering and disposing of his dead body, she is dismissed from employment by the Samsas.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 255

The central character in The Metamorphosis is Gregor Samsa who awakens one morning to find that he has turned, literally, into an insect, a state of being from which he is unable to extricate himself. Bullied by everyone in the household except his sister, Gregor gradually dies from a combination of starvation, for love as much as anything else, and deprivation, especially of those things like music and art which have sustained Gregor in his cramped and limited life.

Gregor's father, without a job at the beginning of the story, is living off of the toil of his son and later, the slim rent he extracts from lodgers who are basically the responsibility of his wife. Gregor's mother, although not overly a malignant influence on his life and demise, desperately wants to forget that the metamorphosis has ever taken place. Only Gregor's sister shows him any compassion, after her initial shock, but she, too, eventually ignores him in response to the budding life within her.

The world for Gregor is summed up in the treatment he is meted out by his office. A faithful and energetic worker who has exhibited loyalty and labored hard for a number of years, Gregor is punished severely, almost savagely, the minute he shows the slightest intention of deviating from the rigid schedule of the office. His first day of absence brings immediate concern, not for his well-being, but for his lack of punctuality. In the world of Franz Kafka everyone is punished for the slightest abrogation of the rules.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 995

Charwoman
Hired by the Samsas to replace their live-in servant, the charwoman is a tough old woman who, unlike the other characters, is neither horrified nor frightened by Gregor's insect form. She even refers to Gregor affectionately as ''the old dung beetle'' and less affectionately threatens him with a chair. She is the one who discovers that Gregor has died and who cheerfully disposes of his body.

Chief Clerk
The chief clerk from Gregor's firm comes to the Samsa house to find out why Gregor has not shown up for work. When Gregor delays coming out of his room, the clerk criticizes him for poor work performance and reports that the head of the firm suspects Gregor of embezzling funds. When Gregor finally emerges, the clerk flees in horror.

Gregor's father
See Mr. Samsa.

Gregor's mother
See Mrs. Samsa.

Gregor's sister
See Grete Samsa.

Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of the story, is a self-sacrificing, dutiful young man who is mysteriously transformed into a giant insect as the story begins. He lives with his parents and his sister, whom he has been supporting by working as a travelling salesman, a job he very much dislikes, but which he devotes his life to: he seems to have no close friends and no social life. There are hints of repressed resentment in Gregor's attitude toward his family; he seems to feel that his sacrifices for them have not been properly appreciated. And despite his dutiful nature, he does not seem very close to his family, except for his sister, whose musical studies he has been planning to finance.

After his transformation, Gregor's character changes somewhat: on two occasions, he puts his own desires ahead of what others want, first when he tries to defend his belongings in opposition to his sister's plan to remove them, and second when he seeks to obtain the mysterious nourishment associated with his sister's violin playing. In the end, however, he reverts to his self-sacrificing ways by willingly going to his death because his family wants to be rid of him.

Grete Samsa
Grete Samsa, usually referred to in the story as Gregor's sister, is the family member Gregor seems closest to and is the one who takes care of him after his transformation. Even she seems disgusted by his new form, however, and she is the one who at the end demands that he be got rid of.

Before the transformation, the seventeen-year-old Grete leads an idle life and is regarded by her parents as ‘‘a somewhat useless daughter.’’ After the transformation, she becomes a sales clerk as well as taking on the responsibility of caring for Gregor. Tired out by all these new duties, she begins to neglect Gregor, but is furious when her mother cleans Gregor's room, seeing this action as an invasion of her domain.

Twice Grete does things that lead Gregor to leave his room, for which he suffers serious consequences. First, her decision to remove Gregor's furniture leads to a confrontation in the living room that ends with Gregor being seriously injured. Later her violin playing lures Gregor into the living room again, provoking the conflict that leads to his death. She is also the one who argues the most strongly for getting rid of Gregor. After Gregor's death, Grete blooms, and her parents think she is ready for a husband.

Mr. Samsa
Mr. Samsa, referred to only as Gregor's father until Gregor's death, is a failed businessman who has been idle for five years, living off what Gregor earns. He seems quite antagonistic to his son, fierce toward him, though at the same time weak: when he first sees the transformed Gregor, he shakes a fist at him, but then breaks down and cries.

It is the fierceness that dominates, however. The first two times Gregor ventures out of his room, his father forces him back in, the first time brandishing a walking stick and a newspaper at him, the second time bombarding him with apples. He does injury to Gregor both times.

After Gregor's transformation, Mr. Samsa is also transformed; before, he was a sluggish man who hardly ever got dressed and who could barely walk; now he is a bank messenger in a smart uniform who is reluctant ever to take it off. He is still weak in some ways, though, waiting cap in hand on the lodgers, for instance, until Gregor's death, at which point he becomes invigorated and is able to stand up to both the lodgers and the charwoman.

Mrs. Samsa
Mrs. Samsa, who is referred to as Gregor's mother throughout except after Gregor dies, is perhaps the character most sympathetic to Gregor, and the most willing to come to his defense. When something first seems wrong with Gregor, she assumes he is ill and wants to send for the doctor. When the chief clerk is being critical of Gregor, she assures him that Gregor is a very hard worker. When Mr. Samsa throws apples at Gregor, Mrs. Samsa rushes to intervene.

On the other hand, Mrs. Samsa cannot really stand to look at her son in his transformed state: the first two times she does so she screams and faints. She is also not strong enough to defend Gregor successfully: she allows Grete to overrule her on whether to remove Gregor's furniture; and when Grete and Mr. Samsa begin to discuss getting rid of Gregor, Mrs. Samsa has an asthmatic fit and is unable to intervene.

The Three Lodgers
Arriving in the Samsa household near the end of the story, the three lodgers are serious gentlemen who acquire power over the household. They always act together, as if they were a single character, though they do have a leader (‘‘the middle lodger''). It is their request that leads to Grete' s violin concert in the living room. When they discover Gregor, they give notice and threaten to sue, but when Mr. Samsa orders them out they leave quietly.

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