A traveling salesman who hates his job but is forced to keep it in order to support his family and pay off his father's debts. Gregor suddenly finds himself transformed into a giant insect. Never coming to terms with his metamorphosis, he struggles with intense feelings of guilt as if his inability to support his family were his own fault. Though freed from his job, Gregor is now a burden to his family and is kept locked in his room. Isolated and neglected, Gregor is a metaphor for the human being oppressed by capitalism and alienated from work, family, and himself.
Gregor's younger sister. She is the only one in the family with whom Gregor was intimate. At first, she takes it upon herself to clean his room and feed him. With time, however, she loses interest in this and leaves him alone. Grete, who first cared so much for Gregor, is also the first to assert that the family must get rid of him. Gregor had planned to use all his money to send Grete to the Conservatory to study violin, and her playing awakens his humanity.
Gregor's father, having lived a "laborious though unsuccessful life" and collapsed his business, has become exceptionally lazy, doing nothing while his son earns all the money. When misfortune strikes, Mr. Samsa puts on a uniform and goes to work. He is suspicious of the transformed Gregor from the beginning, and always assumes the worst if his son emerges from his room. He first wounds Gregor while trying to shove him into his room and then cripples him by throwing an apple into his back.
Gregor's mother is also forced to go to work to make money for the family. Her relation to Gregor is one of dutiful and loving mother, but her tendency to faint upon seeing him is not conducive to helping him. After begging to see Gregor, she is finally allowed in his room, but faints as soon as he appears. She then proceeds to save Gregor from his father's apple-throwing wrath. Yet, since Mrs. Samsa is extremely quiet and always does what she is told, her opinions on family affairs remain unknown and her personality is subsumed in her husband's authority.
Gregor's boss at work is the great symbol of everything wrong with capitalism. He sits behind his desk, talking down to his employees. Gregor knows that if he calls in sick for the first time in five years, his chief would come in person to call him lazy.
The Chief Clerk is the Chief's mouthpiece. He himself arrives at Gregor's house when the former is late to work and thus throws the entire family into disorder. When Gregor does not unlock his room, the Chief Clerk tells Gregor, in front of the family, that he is under suspicion of having stolen money and that his work is very unsatisfactory, though this isn't true.
The charwoman is the last servant left in the family, taken on after the others are dismissed. She is not repulsed by Gregor but rather attempts to play with him, annoying him greatly. She is the only character who attributes intelligence to Gregor. The charwoman is excited both by Gregor's existence and by his death.
Caricatures of gentlemen, the lodgers dominate the overly servile Samsa family. They are taken on because the family needs money, and they take it upon themselves to run the household, making sure that everything is ordered and nothing is superfluous. The lodgers carefully inspect their food and rudely show displeasure at Grete's violin playing. At the first sign of Gregor they give notice and refuse to pay for the room. Mr. Samsa finally asserts himself, revealing the lodgers' cowardice in the face of authority.
Servant girl (Anna)
The servant girl stays on after Gregor's metamorphosis, but asks that she be allowed to lock herself in the kitchen unless summoned. She is dismissed by the Samsas once they run out of money to pay her.
Begs for permission to leave the family as soon as she finds out about Gregor's metamorphosis. She is extremely grateful when she is allowed to go and promises to tell no one about Gregor. Like the other servants, the cook serves to demonstrate the "high life" that the family was living at Gregor's expense.
The Metamorphosis Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Metamorphosis is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Metamorphosis is an autobiographical piece of writing, and we find that parts of the story reflect Kafka's own life. It is well known that Kafka felt like an insect in his father's authoritative presence and even developed a stammer...