The novella The Metamorphosis focuses on two main characters Gregor and Grete. However, two more heroes are present in every chapter throughout the novella, Mrs. Samsa and Mr. Samsa.
All the other The Metamorphosis characters represent the outside world for the family. They appear and disappear in the narrative without much influence on the plot. The fundamental conflicts happen due to the central figures, their actions and decisions. So, considering them in detail is crucial for understanding the novella.
Gregor Samsa’s Character Analysis
Gregor Samsa is The Metamorphosis’s protagonist, a young salesman who works tirelessly to support his family. Gregor faces such challenges with a lot of pride because he loves taking care of them. All in all, there is nothing unusual about him. Until one morning Gregor Samsa found himself transformed into a horrible vermin.
The story of Gregor’s life after the transformation consists of three parts. The first part tells how Gregor loses his human body and his ability to communicate. Consequently, Gregor loses his job and his position in the family as a bread-winner. Further down in the story, he loses his humanity in the eyes of others and his name. The end of the novella focuses on Gregor’s metamorphosis and his internal struggle.
Despite turning into a bug, Gregor is obsessed with getting ready to work. His work is the only thing he can think about. It is interesting to see that there is no intimacy, even within the family. The only person with whom he has close relationships is his sister Grete. Gregor’s transformation is less tragic than the coldness in the familial relationships within Samsa’s household and the change in Gregor and Grete’s relationship.
It is peculiar to notice that the character’s personality in the novella remains almost unchanged. He does lose his taste, ability to speak, move like a human, see well. However, his thoughts and feelings are still of a human. He feels hurt, ashamed, and worried. He cares for others; for instance, he hides under the couch when his sister comes to clean his room. It shows that he keeps putting the interests of others ahead of himself.
Gregor does adopt some of the habits and likes of an insect. Nevertheless, he does not lose his humanity altogether. The death brings a sense of relief to Gregor as if he welcomes it. Before dying, he feels love and compassion for his family, which makes him appear more human than others.
Gregor Samsa’s Quotes
- “One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin”. (Part I)
- “I don’t want to call this monster my brother, all I can say is: we have to try and get rid of it”. (Part III)
- “What a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there’s the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them”. (Part I)
- “One day, in order to spare her even this sight, he spent four hours carrying the bedsheet over to the couch on his back and arranged it so that he was completely covered and his sister would not be able to see him even if she bent down”. (Part II)
- “He was especially fond of hanging from the ceiling; it was quite different from lying on the floor; he could breathe more freely; his body had a light swing to it; and up there, relaxed and almost happy, it might happen that he would surprise even himself by letting go of the ceiling and landing on the floor with a crash”. (Part II)
- “That would have let him crawl around unimpeded in any direction, but it would also have let him quickly forget his past when he had still been human”. (Part II)
- “Sometimes…think of taking over the family’s affairs, just like before, the next time the door was opened”. (Part III)
- “He also felt relatively comfortable. It is true that his entire body was aching, but the pain seemed to be slowly getting weaker and weaker and would finally disappear altogether”. (Part III)
Grete Samsa’s Character Analysis
In The Metamorphosis, Grete Samsa is Gregor’s beloved sister, who takes responsibility to look after him. She does it with attention at the beginning by trying to understand what food he likes and cleaning his room. However, as the story progresses, Grete transforms into a young woman and stops caring for Gregor. To support the family, she has to start working. The readers learn what kind of job Grete has; she now works as a salesgirl. A hard reality of life makes Grete Samsa grow bitter towards Gregor. Eventually, she stops coming to his room, stops caring if he eats, and stops calling her brother by name. At the end of the novella, she demands they get rid of him.
In the beginning, Grete is the only person who is not entirely repulsed by Gregor’s new appearance. She is also the only family member who interacts with him after the transformation. Mainly because of how close they used to be in the past. The family of Gregor Samsa views her as an authority in everything that concerns him. These new responsibilities make her position in the family more prominent. However, she enjoys being in charge more than she wishes well-being for her brother. For this reason, she does not allow her mother to help with taking care of Gregor.
An important detail in Grete’s description is her love for music. Gregor confesses that he was saving money to send her to Conservatory to study it. Only Gregor understands her passion for music, and even in his insect form, he feels the beauty of it. By rejecting Gregor, Grete rejects the only person who truly cares for her and her dreams. It demonstrates how alienated her new adult life is.
Grete is the only other character whose name is mentioned in the novella besides Gregor. She also the person that changes the most in the book. First, Grete starts acting differently towards Gregor. Second, she transforms into an adult with hopes of getting married. Grete is undergoing her metamorphosis from a young girl to a woman. It affects her personality and attitude towards her brother.
Grete Samsa’s Quotes
- “In the room on his right there followed a painful silence; in the room on his left his sister began to cry.” (Part I)
- “Then, out of consideration for Gregor’s feelings, as she knew that he would not eat in front of her, she hurried out again and even turned the key in the lock so that Gregor would know he could make things as comfortable for himself as he liked”. (Part II)
- “He’s enjoyed his dinner today”, she might say when he had diligently cleared away all the food left for him, or if he left most of it, which slowly became more and more frequent, she would often say, sadly, “now everything’s just been left there again”. (Part II)
- “His sister, unfortunately, did not agree; she had become used to the idea, not without reason, that she was Gregor’s spokesman to his parents about the things that concerned him”. (Part II)
- “Gregor’s sister no longer thought about how she could please him but would hurriedly push some food or other into his room with her foot before she rushed out to work in the morning and at midday, and in the evening she would sweep it away again with the broom, indifferent as to whether it had been eaten or – more often than not – had been left totally untouched”. (Part III)
- “Father, Mother”, said his sister, hitting the table with her hand as an introduction, “we can’t carry on like this. Maybe you can’t see it, but I can. I don’t want to call this monster my brother, all I can say is: we have to try and get rid of it”. (Part III)
Mr. & Mrs. Samsa Character Analysis
It is quite hard to understand what Gregor’s relationship with his mother and father were before the transformation. However, the readers learn that Gregor was the bread-winner for the family. At first, he confesses, they were grateful, but there was no warmth in the family anymore.
His mother, Mrs. Samsa in The Metamorphosis, seems to love her son, but she does not do anything to help him. In the beginning, she is worried about Gregor being late for work. She also tries to defend him in front of the Chief Clerk. It shows that Mrs. Samsa wants him to retain his job despite his evident unhappiness. The mother is the only one who hopes that Gregor’s situation will change. She often wants to see him but is disgusted and horrified by him when she does.
Gregor’s father is often described as hostile and indifferent to his son’s suffering. Mr. Samsa’s name is not revealed in the story. All the readers know about him is that his business failed, and now Gregor works tirelessly to pay off the debts. In Part I, he is described as a weak older man unable to move and work. He spends most of his day in his nightgown sitting in his armchair. After Gregor’s transformation, he has to go back to work as a bank attendant. He also has enough physical strength to hurt and attack Gregor on multiple occasions. Mr. Samsa transforms physically more than any member of the Samsa family. After he goes back to work, he regains his masculinity and loses weight. The father also changes his clothing into a uniform with golden buttons. He becomes attached to his new suit and refuses to take it off even in the evening.
Throughout the story, Gregor’s father undergoes tremendous transformations. Even when Gregor was a human, they did not have close relationships. However, after Gregor was unable to provide for the family anymore, Mr. Samsa’s feelings towards his son came up. Their relationships form a father-son antagonism theme in the story.
After Gregor dies, both of his parents feel an enormous sense of relief. They were not able to accept their son in his new form. In the end, the readers learn that they are hoping to find a good match for Grete. Most probably, they are hoping to solve their financial problems using her.
Mr. & Mrs. Samsa Quotes:
- “They had even got used to it, both Gregor and the family, they took the money with gratitude and he was glad to provide it, although there was no longer much warm affection given in return”. (Part II)
- “His father was healthy but old, and lacking in self-confidence. During the five years that he had not been working – the first holiday in a life that had been full of strain and no success – he had put on a lot of weight and become very slow and clumsy”. (Part II)
- “For the first fourteen days, Gregor’s parents could not bring themselves to come into the room to see him. He would often hear them say how they appreciated all the new work his sister was doing even though, before, they had seen her as a girl who was somewhat useless and frequently been annoyed with her”. (Part II)
- “The same tired man as used to be laying there entombed in his bed when Gregor came back from his business trips, who would receive him sitting in the armchair in his nightgown when he came back in the evenings; who was hardly even able to stand up but, as a sign of his pleasure, would just raise his arms and who, on the couple of times a year when they went for a walk together on a Sunday or public holiday wrapped up tightly in his overcoat between Gregor and his mother, would always labour his way forward a little more slowly than them, who were already walking slowly for his sake; who would place his stick down carefully and, if he wanted to say something would invariably stop and gather his companions around him. He was standing up straight enough now; dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons, the sort worn by the employees at the banking institute; above the high, stiff collar of the coat his strong double-chin emerged; under the bushy eyebrows, his piercing, dark eyes looked out fresh and alert; his normally unkempt white hair was combed down painfully close to his scalp”. (Part II)
- “Mr. and Mrs. Samsa were struck, almost simultaneously, with the thought of how their daughter was blossoming into a well built and beautiful young lady. They became quieter. Just from each other’s glance and almost without knowing it they agreed that it would soon be time to find a good man for her”. (Part III)