The Metamorphosis characters: a closer look at Kafka’s iconic figures

The Metamorphosis characters: a closer look at Kafka's iconic figures

In “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor Samsa is the protagonist and the character around whom the entire story revolves. Gregor wakes up one morning transformed into a gigantic insect-like creature. Through Gregor’s transformation, Kafka explores the theme of alienation and the sense of being trapped in an oppressive environment. Gregor’s metamorphosis not only physically changes him, but it also alters the dynamics within his family.

Gregor’s family consists of his father, mother, and younger sister Grete. Although Gregor’s transformation is the central event of the story, the other characters play crucial roles in shaping the narrative. Gregor’s father, Mr. Samsa, is a hard-working and exhausted man who, at the beginning of the story, is portrayed as being dependent on his son’s income. However, when Gregor is transformed, Mr. Samsa must take on the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner for the family.

Gregor’s mother, Mrs. Samsa, is initially portrayed as a caring and supportive mother. However, as the story progresses, she becomes overwhelmed by the situation and withdraws from Gregor’s life. Grete, Gregor’s sister, takes on the role of caretaker and becomes the most involved in Gregor’s new existence. She is initially sympathetic toward Gregor but later becomes resentful of the burden he places on the family.

Another important character is the lodger who lives with the Samsa family. The lodger’s presence serves as a source of income for the family, and his relationship with the Samsas becomes strained after Gregor’s transformation. The chief clerk at Gregor’s workplace is also a significant character, representing the hostile and indifferent society that Gregor must navigate.

Anna, the Samsas’ cook, is a minor character who helps with Gregor’s care in the beginning. However, as Gregor becomes more of a burden, she distances herself from him. The charwoman, who cleans the Samsa’s apartment, is also involved in Gregor’s fate, as she discovers his dead body.

Kafka’s exploration of the characters in “The Metamorphosis” goes beyond a simple analysis of their individual traits. Through their interactions, Kafka delves into the complexities of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the isolation that comes with being different. The characters in “The Metamorphosis” are not just figments of Kafka’s imagination; they represent aspects of the human condition that many writers of Kafka’s time and literature in general were exploring.

The Metamorphosis Characters: A Closer Look at Kafka’s Iconic Figures

Gregor’s family consists of his father, mother, and sister Grete. Mr. Samsa is portrayed as a stern and authoritative figure, playing the role of the traditional patriarch. He works as a clerk and has a strained relationship with Gregor, often displaying little sympathy or understanding toward his son’s transformation.

Gregor’s mother is depicted as a more caring and sympathetic character. However, she remains somewhat passive and is heavily involved in domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Her role in the story is mainly that of a supporting character.

The charwoman is yet another character who plays a significant role in the story. She is a housemaid employed by the Samsa family, and her presence adds an element of intrigue and mystery to the plot. It is through her observations and interactions that the reader gains insight into the Samsa household dynamics.

Grete, Gregor’s sister, goes through her own transformation as the story progresses. Initially, she cares for her brother and helps him adjust to his new life as an insect. However, over time, she becomes distant and even hostile towards him. This change in behavior reflects Grete’s own growth and development as a character.

It’s worth noting that the relationships between the characters in “The Metamorphosis” are complex and multifaceted. Each character’s attitude and actions towards Gregor reflect their own struggles and desires.

Overall, Franz Kafka’s portrayal of these iconic figures adds depth and dimension to “The Metamorphosis.” Through their interactions and behaviors, Kafka explores themes of isolation, alienation, and the absurdity of human existence.

Gregor SamsaThe main character who undergoes a physical metamorphosis into an insect.
Mr. SamsaGregor’s father, a stern and authoritative figure.
Mrs. SamsaGregor’s mother, a caring but passive character.
CharwomanThe housemaid who adds an element of mystery to the story.
Grete SamsaGregor’s sister, who undergoes her own transformation.
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Chief: The Silent Observer

Chief is depicted as a hostile and cold person, often cited as someone who never cared about Gregor’s transformation into a giant insect. He gives little help or attention to Gregor, which makes his occasional acts of kindness all the more surprising. For instance, Chief is the one who stores Gregor’s furniture once he realizes that Gregor can no longer use it.

While Chief’s name is never explicitly mentioned in the novel, he is referred to as “Mr. Samsa” or “chief clerk” by other characters. Although he is not the primary breadwinner for the family, his role as an academic and a working professional has helped the Samsas attain a certain level of social status. However, this also makes Chief distant and disconnected from the plight of Gregor.

Chief’s relationship with his wife, Mrs. Samsa, is also noteworthy. Although they are Gregor’s parents, they have a neglectful and strained relationship, which is reflected in the way they treat Gregor after his transformation. Mrs. Samsa is the one who initially cares for Gregor, but as he grows more insect-like, she becomes repulsed and afraid of him. Chief, on the other hand, remains mostly silent and passive, not taking any active part in resolving the situation.

Chief’s interactions with the other characters, particularly Gregor’s sister Grete, shed light on his personality and help us understand the dynamics within the Samsa family. He is not interested in Gregor’s well-being and only cares about the practical aspects of the situation. For instance, when Gregor is summoned by the chief clerk, Chief immediately takes the side of the clerk and asks Gregor to explain himself.

This lack of empathy and understanding extends to Chief’s interactions with the three lodgers who rent rooms in the Samsa house. Despite Gregor providing for the family and the lodgers paying rent, Chief does not intervene when the lodgers want to leave due to Gregor’s transformation. His nonchalant attitude towards the well-being of his family and his lack of consideration for others make him an unlikable character.

In a broader analysis, Chief represents the indifference and lack of compassion that Kafka critiques in society. He is emblematic of the societal norms that prioritize appearance and practicality over the well-being and emotions of individuals. Chief’s character serves as a reminder that the transformation within the Samsa family goes beyond Gregor’s physical change – it encompasses the emotional and psychological transformation within each character.

Overall, Chief’s role as the silent observer in “The Metamorphosis” highlights the complex and dysfunctional relationships within the Samsa family. His lack of empathy and concern for others, including his own son, underscores the tragic nature of the novel and the themes it explores.

Grete: Gregor’s Beloved Sister

Grete’s relationship with Gregor undergoes a significant transformation after his metamorphosis into a giant insect. At first, she remains sympathetic towards her brother and tries to retain a connection with him through small gestures, like leaving food for him to eat. However, as Gregor’s appearance becomes more repulsive and his behavior more erratic, her feelings start to gradually shift.

The growing tension between Grete and Gregor is apparent in a scene where she plays her violin in front of him and their parents. Gregor’s reaction suggests that he might still have some recognition of his sister, as he is moved by her music. Yet, Grete’s performance simultaneously reflects a sense of alienation and hostility towards her transformed brother. This scene highlights the profound psychological and emotional impact that Gregor’s metamorphosis has on Grete and the entire Samsa family.

In addition to her role as Gregor’s sister, Grete is also portrayed as a young girl on the brink of adulthood. She is depicted as growing more distant from her parents and siblings, focusing on her own interests and desires. This shift in priorities is evident when Grete begins to neglect her duties at home, and Mr. Samsa remarks on her laziness and lack of concern for the family’s well-being.

Furthermore, Grete’s transformation mirrors Gregor’s in some ways. While Gregor physically changes into an insect, Grete undergoes her own development as an individual within the confines of her family and society. Her name, “Grete”, can be seen as a diminutive version of “Gregor,” suggesting a parallel between their journeys of self-discovery. Like Gregor, she attempts to break free from societal expectations, exploring her own desires and aspirations.

Grete’s character plays a vital role in Kafka’s exploration of themes such as isolation, family dynamics, and identity. The transformation of her relationship with Gregor, from caretaker to someone who feels repulsed and alienated, symbolizes the breakdown of a once-close bond. Through Grete’s experiences, Kafka invites readers to contemplate the complexities of love, responsibility, and the consequences of societal pressures.

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Servant Girl Anna: The Unnoticed Presence

Anna is introduced in the beginning of the novel as the cook and cleaner in the Samsa household. She is often seen working silently in the background, performing her tasks without much notice from others. Being a servant, her feelings and thoughts are rarely acknowledged, and she is simply seen as someone who is there to do her job.

Anna’s relationship with Gregor, the main character who undergoes a metamorphosis, is one of neglect. While his parents and sister, Grete, show some care and concern for Gregor, Anna remains mostly indifferent towards him. She is not involved in the attempts to take care of Gregor or find a way to bring him back to his human form.

However, Anna’s neglect towards Gregor is not born out of hostility or dislike. It is simply because she has an important role to play in the household, and her focus is on her work rather than on the emotional and physical state of Gregor. Her presence symbolizes the overwhelming responsibilities that can come with being a servant.

Although Anna’s role is minor, she still reflects the complex relationships and dynamics within the Samsa family. Her presence adds depth to the story and serves as a reminder of the social hierarchy and the different roles people play within it.

Cook: The Provider of Daily Nourishment

Throughout the narrative, the Cook is portrayed as a diligent and hardworking individual. She is responsible for the preparation of meals not only for the Samsa family but also for the lodgers in their home. As Gregor’s transformation becomes more apparent, the Cook’s role grows in significance, as she becomes the sole supplier of sustenance for him.

Only the Cook dares to open Gregor’s bedroom door to deliver his food. She is described as a “girl” and, though she may not have cared much for him personally, she carries out her duty without hesitation. This instance illustrates how even a seemingly insignificant and little-cared-for character in the family has a vital role to play.

A Nourishing Presence

The Cook’s portrayal aligns with Kafka’s tendency as a writer to list the involved characters in his works. While she may not be a central figure like Gregor or his family, the Cook’s role as the provider of daily nourishment highlights her significance within the story.

She is neither hostile nor affectionate towards Gregor; rather, she maintains a neutral stance in their relationship. However, her actions demonstrate a willingness to help, even if it is simply by delivering his food. This interaction becomes even more crucial considering Gregor’s physical and emotional state as a transformed insect.

A Crucial Link

The Cook’s role in providing sustenance not only highlights the practical aspect she serves within the family’s daily routine, but also reveals a deeper psychological dimension. Her presence and actions represent a link between Gregor and his former life, reminding him of the familiar human experiences he can no longer partake in.

As an unnamed character, the Cook’s significance may seem insignificant at first glance. However, her existence as the chief provider of daily nourishment and stability in the household cannot be understated. She becomes a symbol of warmth and sustenance, a key reminder of the humanity Gregor is losing in his transformed state.

The Metamorphosis Character List: Exploring the Unique Individuals

At the center of the story is Gregor Samsa, the protagonist who is transformed into a giant insect overnight. Before his transformation, Gregor was a hardworking and dutiful son, working as an English clerk to support his family. However, his metamorphosis changes everything. His family initially reacts with shock and horror, but over time, they grow neglectful and even hostile towards him.

Gregor’s relationship with his sister, Grete, is one of the most important dynamics in the story. At the beginning, she takes on the role of caretaker, tending to Gregor’s needs and bringing him food. However, as time goes on, Grete becomes less empathetic and starts to see Gregor as a burden. She even goes so far as to suggest getting rid of him.

Gregor’s relationship with his father is also strained. His father, Mr. Samsa, initially tries to help him by throwing apples at him when he gets stuck, but as the story progresses, he becomes more distant and hostile towards Gregor. There is a sense that their relationship was never strong to begin with, and the metamorphosis exacerbates their existing tensions.

Anna, the Samsa family’s charwoman, and the unnamed servant also play important roles in the story. They are both portrayed as indifferent and callous towards Gregor, even though they are responsible for taking care of him. This further highlights the theme of neglect and indifference in the story.

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The other characters in the story, such as Gregor’s mother and the chief clerk, have smaller roles but still contribute to the overall narrative. Gregor’s mother, for instance, remains in the background for much of the story, but her feelings of guilt and helplessness are palpable. The chief clerk, on the other hand, exemplifies the stereotype of the bureaucratic and unfeeling authority figure.

Through the unique individuals that populate the story, Kafka explores themes of isolation, alienation, and the breakdown of familial relationships. His characters are not simply vehicles for the plot, but rather complex individuals with their own desires, flaws, and struggles. Kafka’s skillful characterization and psychological analysis make “The Metamorphosis” a classic in literature that continues to fascinate and challenge readers today.

Mr Samsa: The Patriarch of the Samsa Family

Mr. Samsa is first introduced in the beginning of the novella as a hardworking English clerk. He is described as a man who puts much effort into his work and is someone who others cite as being successful. In the beginning of the story, Mr. Samsa is shown as a responsible and caring father, having summoned the charwoman and the servant girl to help take care of their transformed son, Gregor.

As the story progresses, Mr. Samsa’s character becomes more prominent. He is the one who makes the decision to continue working, despite Gregor’s transformation, in order to provide for the family. This decision causes tensions within the family as it is seen as a neglect of the transformed Gregor. However, Mr. Samsa believes that he must continue to work in order to give the family a secure future.

Although Mr. Samsa is not the most involved in Gregor’s care, he does express his feelings and concerns. He shows his frustration and impatience with Gregor’s newfound insect form. However, his actions are not entirely hostile; he also expresses moments of empathy and understanding towards his son. For instance, he tries to make Gregor feel better by opening his room window, allowing him to feel closer to nature.

Mr. Samsa’s relationship with his daughter, Grete, is also important in the story. As Grete takes on the responsibility of caring for Gregor, Mr. Samsa can be seen as emotionally distant. He does not intervene or display much concern for Gregor’s well-being, leaving the responsibility solely to Grete. This neglect causes tension between Mr. Samsa and Grete.

The Samsa Family and the Dynamic Shift

As the novella progresses, the dynamics within the Samsa family begin to shift. Mr. Samsa’s transformation from a caring father into a more distant and neglectful character is mirrored by the transformation of Gregor. The once-hostile relationship between Mr. Samsa and Gregor becomes strained, while Grete’s relationship with Gregor grows stronger as she takes over his care.

Mr. Samsa’s character serves as a contrast to the more compassionate and understanding Grete. While Grete tries to find a solution to Gregor’s predicament and makes an effort to understand him, Mr. Samsa remains focused on the practicalities of the situation. This contrast highlights the importance of empathy and emotional connection in the face of difficult circumstances.

The Patriarch’s Role and Kafka’s Exploration

Mr. Samsa’s character is important not only as a figure within the Samsa family, but also as a representation of patriarchal figures in literature. In Kafka’s exploration of family dynamics, Mr. Samsa symbolizes the traditional role of the father and the expectations placed upon him to provide for his family.

Kafka, as a writer known for his deep psychological examinations, uses Mr. Samsa to delve into the complexities of familial relationships and the effects of transformation on individuals and their roles within a family unit. Through Mr. Samsa’s character, Kafka questions whether transformation is only physical or if it extends to the emotional and psychological realms as well.


Who is Chief in Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”?

Chief is the chief clerk, who is the head of Gregor Samsa’s workplace. He is a symbol of authority and represents the dehumanizing aspects of bureaucracy.

What is the name of Gregor’s sister in “The Metamorphosis”?

Gregor’s sister’s name is Grete. She plays a significant role in the story as she takes care of Gregor and tries to support him initially, but eventually grows tired and starts to resent him.

Who is Mrs Samsa in “The Metamorphosis”?

Mrs Samsa is Gregor’s mother. She is initially shocked and horrified by Gregor’s transformation, but eventually becomes more accepting and protective of him. She is portrayed as a caring and nurturing figure.

What is the relationship between Grete and Gregor Samsa in “The Metamorphosis”?

Grete is Gregor’s younger sister. Initially, she takes care of Gregor and tries to support him, but as time goes on, she becomes more distant and starts to view him as a burden. Their relationship becomes strained and eventually breaks down completely.

Who are the lodgers in “The Metamorphosis”?

The lodgers are tenants who live in the Samsa family’s apartment. They play a minor role in the story and their presence adds to the strain and tension within the household, as they are initially repulsed by Gregor’s transformation.

Who is the chief in “The Metamorphosis”?

The chief in “The Metamorphosis” is a character who holds a position of authority within Gregor Samsa’s workplace. He plays a minor role in the story and is mostly depicted as an unsympathetic and insensitive figure.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.