Analysis of the Novel the Metamorphosis

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Updated: Aug 27, 2022
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Analysis of the Novel the Metamorphosis essay

Main Characters (with detailed descriptions):

Gregor Samsa

The protagonist who suddenly becomes an insect one morning. He used to be a traveling salesman who supported his family. After becoming an insect, his father, mother, and sister, isolate him in his room and he slowly becomes less human, wondering about his sense of self and the boundaries of being human and of being animal. After he becomes an insect, he loses his job as a traveling salesman which forces his family to find different routes to continue making an income and keeping the family afloat. He feels guilty and almost responsible for his change and wishes for human interaction but is afraid for his family to see him in his insect state. Every time he hears his family talking about the financial situation, he is filled with shame. He avoids seeing his family as an insect and hides under the couch with a sheet covering him. He is self-conscious about his “gross” image as the insect. In the end, Gregor starves himself as he loses interest in food. Due to this, he dies alone in his room where the char woman finds him the next morning.

Grete Samsa

Gregor’s sister, she is the one who is in charge of keeping his room clean and provides food for him. Initially, she is very kind to Gregor but later becomes careless and is the one who advocates for Gregor to leave. Initially, her family looked down on her, especially her father for “being a girl who was somewhat useless” and they (the father and mother) had “frequently been annoyed with her” (Kafka 23). She ends up finding work as a salesgirl to support her family due to Gregor’s metamorphosis. Grete plays the violin and loves music. Before Gregor turned into a bug, he had wanted to send her off to a conservatory. Later on, she plays music for their boarders. She becomes insistent on getting rid of Gregor and tries to persuade her father of how much of a burden her brother has become on the family. She assumes the worst of Gregor’s intentions when he is turned into an insect later on, even though she was sympathetic at first.

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His father

i. His father is a very authoritative figure and looked down on his daughter for being a “useless, annoying” girl. In his eyes, the importance roles of the brother and sister switch, however, after Gregor becomes an insect. His father never gives Gregor a chance to explain himself and always assumes the worst of Gregor. When Gregor tries to turn around to the door, both his father and his sister assume Gregor is trying to attack them at first. His father throws an apple at Gregor in a skirmish when Gregor is locked out of the room. The apple is stuck in Gregor’s back and it decays, causing Gregor a lot of pain. Before Gregor’s transformation, he stays at home, “healthy but old” with little self-confidence. He relied on Gregor to provide for the family. After Gregor’s transformation, he carries himself with more dignity, finding work at the bank and takes a lot of pride in his appearance and his minor title. He wears the uniform all the time, and refuses to take it off, even when sleeping. He is the head of household and relishes being the authority figure, especially after Gregor becomes an insect.

His mother

i. Gregor’s mother has asthma, and is characterized as being weak and timid. She cares for her son, but doesn’t do much to help him when he has transformed. She can’t really work due to her condition but ends up helping the family with contracting work with a local seamstress. When Gregor’s father is trying to attack his own son, Gregor’s mother pleads for him to spare Gregor’s life. She seems like a sympathetic mother with her words, but her actions don’t really live up to the reality of her perceived strength of maternal love.

Plot (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution):


Gregor wakes up in his bed and finds out that he has become an insect. People from his workplace come in to find him as he has missed his train. They scurry away with fright once they see he has turned into an insect.

Rising Action:

His family is frightened upon seeing him and decide to keep his transformation a secret from the rest of the neighborhood. They feed him in his room and he stays in it often hiding under the couch to avoid his sister seeing him or staring out the window. The family suffers financially because Gregor is out of work so Grete becomes a salesgirl, Mr. Samsa takes a job at the bank, and Mrs. Samsa works on a contracting basis for a seamstress. They are pushed to find jobs due to Gregor’s change. Grete takes care of him and feeds him rotten food and scraps as he prefers it over normal food due to his change. He scares away the old maid so a new char woman is hired.


Grete decides to move out the furniture from Gregor’s room so he can move around and climb onto the ceiling. She gets her mother to help her. Gregor moves out of his hiding place under the couch onto a painting, which Mrs. Samsa sees. She is frightened, screams, and faints. Gregor is locked out of his room and faces his father. His father bombards Gregor with apples until Gregor’s mother begs his father to stop and to spare Gregor’s life. Gregor ends up having an apple lodged into his back, which decays and causes him pain.

Falling Action:

Gregor stays injured in his room and rarely eats. His sister, who initially had taken care of him and been so kind, now doesn’t really want to clean his room or feed him. Gregor becomes very grimy, as does his room. His family takes in boarders and act like “poor folks” drenched in despair. They hide Gregor’s existence from the boarders.


One evening, Grete plays her violin for the boarders and Gregor creeps out of his room to listen. This causes a skirmish among the family and Gregor is locked back into his room. Her sister convinces Mr. Samsa that they have to get rid of Gregor. Due to days of self-starvation, Gregor dies in his room a little after 3AM. His family is relieved Gregor is dead. They throw out the boarders and decide to fire the charwoman. They happily take a day off for vacation since the whole insect ordeal is over and go on a train to the countryside.

Textual Analysis (Evaluate: Using MLA format, cite major/significant passages. You must explain the significance):


Towards the end, Gregor crawls out of his room because he wants to hear his sister play the violin. He questions his ability to appreciate music in his insect form wondering if, as an animal, “music could captivate him so” (Kafka 37). Kafka explores the differences and abilities of being human versus being animal, testing the boundaries and defining characteristics of what humanity means. Gregor asks the question of whether being animal means that he is able to enjoy the arts and music. He is trying to find his sense of self. If being himself means being human, is he still Gregor as an insect? He is trying to find commonality with his past self, before his transformation.


Initially, Grete pities her brother. She knows that there are some outside factors for his transformation and doesn’t blame him for the sudden change into some type of odious insect. However, she still can’t face him in his new form, and Gregor knows this. He hides under the couch from her when she comes into the room. Gregor realizes that she “still found his appearance unbearable and would continue to do so” and that she probably even had to overcome the “urge to flee” when she came into the room (Kafka 23). He is kind and doesn’t get mad at her for this instinct and decides to cover himself with a sheet. Grete later gains “unexpected confidence” from her new role in the family when she begins working and being the sole caretaker of her insect brother (Kafka 25). She is insistent on doing things her way and thinks she knows Gregor best and what’s best for the family. 

Many times, due to her actions, Gregor is hurt. For example, she moves the furniture out of the room even though Gregor doesn’t want that to happen. This causes Gregor to have an apple lodged into his back when his father attacks him and for his mother to faint. Later on, Grete ends up feeling burdened by Gregor’s existence as an insect, as she feels he is literally leeching off of the family. She puts the thought into her father’s mind that they need to get rid of Gregor. She revels in her newfound confidence after Gregor’s position as the primary breadwinner is replaced by her new job, and her parents’ new positions in the bank and at the seamstress’s. With this confidence, she feels that Gregor can be replaced and that he really isn’t needed anymore in the family.

The way his father treats Grete before and after his metamorphosis

Initially, the family finds Grete to be useless and annoying in contrast to her brother (Kafka 23). However, once Gregor is confined into his room it is Grete who is supporting the family. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa end up relying heavily on Grete. In the end, after Gregor dies, they even comment that their daughter is “blossoming to become a well built and beautiful young lady” (Kafka 43). This is something they would not have said at the beginning of the novel before Gregor’s metamorphosis.


Gregor is alienated by his family as they cannot bear to see him in his new state for the first “fourteen days” (Kafka 23). Later, he alienates himself in a way once he realizes his families despise for himself and loses a purpose for life, which leads to self-starvation, and his own death. Due to the loneliness in his room, Gregor fights becoming animal, due to the lack of human interaction. He wonders which behaviors are human and which are animal.

Major Themes (Remember that themes are not explained in one word, but with phrases or sentences. Please explain how you know these are working themes throughout the novel or play):

 Sense of Self/Humanity

Gregor loses a sense of self with his transformation. He struggles with defining what traits are his own and what he loses being an insect, without communication or human interaction. It is evident throughout the novel he struggles with this as his wishes and desires are not able to be communicated with his family. His humanity is key to how his family perceives him and what they make of his intentions.


Gregor is slowly and purposefully alienated by and from his family. They initially do this simply because of his dreadful appearance, but later on due to the despair they feel because of his change. His change makes them financially struggle so they get jobs and in turn, have less time to spend on paying attention to him. Due to this alienation, Gregor becomes less important to their existence and their family life. He is a burden, and bothersome. Grete even later feels that he has some sort of evil intent against them, which coupled with his lack of communication, makes their interaction even more stressful. His father even attacks him, and likely doesn’t recognize the insect form as his son. They seem to forget the good Gregor did for his family and for their own happiness, don’t want to be responsible for Gregor.


Due to his new form, Gregor feels inferior. He doesn’t feel like he needs to fight back when his father attacks him or when he hears his sister talking bad about him. This inferiority is caused by a mixture of shame and guilt, since he can’t support his family any longer. In a way, he feels like he deserves it.


This is a very brief theme in the book as the father and mother previously look down on their daughter and find her useless and annoying (Kafka 23). Later on, when she becomes a salesgirl and starts taking care of Gregor, they value her more and even silently praise her at the end when they go to the countryside. It is a reflection on how after Grete takes a more active role in the family, she gains confidence and also trust and respect from her parents. This does come with cons, though, as she ends up hurting Gregor with her brashness and attitude of knowing everything. With her confidence comes carelessness.

Critical Analysis/Theory: (Critical theory articulates what we bring to literature, which presumably determines what we get out of it. This is not a chaos of subjectivity. Instead, critical theory tries to examine what types of questions we should pose about literary works.)

This novel illustrates viewpoints on alienation, sense of self, and different social classes. When Gregor becomes an insect, his family automatically assumes the position of being “poor” and act in a servile manner. The author says “they carried out absolutely everything that the world expects of poor people”. Gregor’s father brought assumedly higher ranking bank officials breakfast, his mother washed clothes for strangers, and his sister obeyed the commands of customers hurriedly (Kafka 32). This perspective illustrates how his family acts in a manner that is imposed on them by what they think is their social and economic status due to the financial effects of Gregor’s transformation since he is no longer able to work. The author also seems to imply that the alienation is caused by Gregor’s job that he has to take in order to support his family as well as the pressure his family has on him. He slowly loses a sense of self due to his transformation and loses a purpose to live. This could be an observation the author is depicting about careers and how the purpose of life is affected by work.

Main Literary Techniques (Identify any figurative language and explain the significance: motifs, symbols, metaphors, hyperboles, etc.):


The insect that Gregor symbolizes the alienation he feels. He likely transforms into this insect due to the outward pressures he has in his life. These pressures might be from his job, his family, and his responsibility for his family’s wellbeing. The insect is not explicitly stated to have a cause. Readers actually do not know the catalyst for the change. However, in the beginning since the job is mentioned, it can be assumed that the job that Gregor hates might be a reason. The insect could be a sort of unwanted escape from the job that he hates.


The author describes the reactions of his family frequently as well as the changes in how they talk about Gregor and how they deal with his transformation. The skirmishes between Gregor and his father are detailed and display the anger his father feels. The decay of the apple on Gregor’s back is particularly graphic as well as the “little white spots” covering him when he dies.

 Intertextuality (Connections to other works- novels, plays, poems, shorts stories, films, etc.):

The Metamorphosis is a strange fiction novel that deals with transformation to a much despised sort of creature. It can be connected to other works that deal with alienation with topics like bullying, but few are as extreme with a detailed description of self-starvation and existence as an insect.

Questions for Class Discussion:

  • a. Is there symbolism in the numbers? Why three men?
  • b. Why is it that Gregor has a sister? Is it modeled after the author’s own family or is there a specific reason for this design?
  • c. How big is Gregor? The closest assumption is based on the size of the painting, so how big is the painting?
  • d. Why isn’t the novel called “Transformation”? Does calling it metamorphosis make it have more to do with insect stuff or does it mean something more? Is it due to the translation?
  • e. Why doesn’t the author ever specify the bug species/type that Gregor turns into? Is there a purpose for this? He could have easily just stated that Gregor is a beetle or cockroach.

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Analysis of the Novel the Metamorphosis. (2022, Aug 27). Retrieved from