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The Story and Character Development of Gregor Samsa in ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka

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‘The Metamorphosis’, by Franz Kafka, is story about Gregor Samsa who is a traveling salesman forced to keep his job in order to pay off his father’s debts and to support his family. There is a great change in the character’s physical appearance considering he wakes up as a giant insect. Gregor goes through many challenges and unusual situations in the story but seems as if he only cares about being able to work for his family, and almost completely ignores the absurd physical condition he is in. His newfound guilt proves that he is a good-hearted soul who wishes to keep his family happy, and without a complaint as both a man and an insect he calmly accepts his hardships. Gregor’s new insect body plays a major role in his development as a character not only physically, but also in an emotional and psychological way.

The opening line of the story, states that Gregor discovers that he has physically transformed into a giant insect establishes the tone for the rest of the story. There is a great imbalance between the ordinary and extraordinary in the story, making it seem as if the narrator expects the world in the story to be illogical and bizarre rather than normal and ordinary. This explains Gregor’s behavior as he focuses on his consequences and how to become accustomed to his new body rather than remarking on the unrealistic strangeness of the situation. He wakes up in his bed thinking about how difficult of a job he has and how he would like to leave his bossy employer to be able to make long-lasting friendships and enjoy his life, but then he realizes how he needs to sacrifice his happiness in this job in order to support his family. Although, he is wakened up as an insect, that does not stop him from stressing about his family’s happiness. This is where the first details about Gregor’s character is learned. Kafka writes, “He felt very proud that he had been able to provide such a life in so nice an apartment for his parents and his sister. But what now if all the peace, the comfort, the contentment were to come to a horrible end?” (Kafka 2). Gregor is struck with the realization that because of his transformation into an insect he will no longer be able to be the breadwinner for the family. He now fears that the members of his family will lose financial stability that were once associated with his earnings.

Gregor is stuck in isolation and when his family and office manager who comes due to his concern for Gregor, urges him to unlock his door and come out of his room. He encounters many challenges as he tries to tell his family and manager of his situation. His voice has been altered making it difficult for them to hear him clearly and his body shape is making it laborious for him to roll of his bed and turn the doorknob. When Gregor is finally able to open the door with his mouth, they are all terrified. His family feeling ashamed and embarrassed to find Gregor like this, locks him in his room. Stuck in his room, he discovers many things about his new body. He discovers that enjoys crawling on the ceiling and walls. He also finds comfort in hiding in the dark and under things in his room. His new body begins to influence his mind that being a bug is okay.

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Psychologically, Gregor is trying to become more familiar with his body and his unexplainable situation of waking up as an insect. His mind becomes more detached from reality the more he accepts his predicament. According to, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this story can be seen as 'psychotic' and 'relevant to medicine'. In the article, ‘The Metamorphosis by’, Cyrus Abbasian, he states, “Psychosis has been associated with loss of personal identity—hence a bug—and a variety of hallucinations, visual, somatic, and auditory, can be teased out from Kafka’s descriptions” (Abbasian 11-14). This shows Gregor went through a psychological change in his character. His character psychologically transformed from being a irritated salesman that worked for his family to an insect feeling guilty because he can no longer help his family. Gregor was used to the responsibility of providing for his family and once freed of that responsibility, he felt like a burden. Although, his family has neglected him, his sister, Grete, seems to be the only one to care about his well-being. She provides him with food scraps, and she also removed all the furniture from his room so that he could easily crawl around and climb the walls. It is very odd how Grete does not question the transformation from man to insect, but rather help and encourage his behavior making him more comfortable to his new life. His mother and father also do not question this bizarre possibility which implies that there is much more behind his transformation then what the story states.

The growth of his character is not only a part of the story but can also be analyzed in a metaphorical sense. In the story, Gregor cannot communicate with anyone, leaving him isolated and alone from the world. Although, he has become accustomed to his new body, he fears losing the remnants of his human life when his family strips his belongings from his room. He covers a picture of a woman on his wall, which was all he had left of humanity. His mother sees him on the wall and passes out, and Gregor lets go of the picture and then scurries to the living room. When his father returns from his new job as a bank attendant, Grete tells him that Gregor broke out of his room. He then throws fruit at Gregor until eventually an apple gets stuck in his back.

Unfortunately, Gregor dies as an insect with a rotten apple on his back and covered in trash. Right before his death, he experiences warm feelings about his family. By now his character has grown tremendously from the irritated salesman from the beginning of the story to a more humane character. Despite his miserable condition, he became more humane than the other characters in the story. His fate illustrates both the rewards given and sacrifices needed to make for this life. More specifically, the story and character development of Gregor Samsa portrays how important it is to know our place in the world, whether it is to sacrifice our happiness for the greater good or live an extraordinary life. As the story implies, we may not be able to choose.

Gregor Samsa not only went through a major physical transformation to an insect, his character also transformed in a psychological and emotional way. From going to work every day irritated to hanging from the ceiling as a bug, he not only became more kind-hearted and humble emotionally but he realized how sad he was as an insect not being able to help his family the way he used to even if it meant that he had to make some sacrifices.

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The Story and Character Development of Gregor Samsa in ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“The Story and Character Development of Gregor Samsa in ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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