Grete in The Metamorphosis: Change & Quotes

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

Grete is the little sister in Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis.' Through the course of this story, she changes the most out of all of the characters. In this lesson, we will learn how this change occurs.

Grete Overview

How would you react if you discovered your brother had transformed into a beetle? Would you join the rest of your family in fear and simply try to ignore him, or would you try to help him? This is the situation in which Grete, the sister of protagonist Gregor, finds herself in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

The Metamorphosis is about a man who turns into a giant beetle
Book cover

Grete goes from a sweet little sister to one who enjoys the control and power she holds, and finally ends up at her breaking point where she, too, just wants Gregor gone. We can sympathize with Grete and the changes that she goes through, but at the same time we are disappointed with her because she was our last hope for Gregor. But this process has also changed her from a little 17 year old girl to a woman who is ready for marriage.

Grete's First Reaction

Even before the family learns what has happened to Gregor, Grete is kind and simply tries to find out what is wrong. While the rest of the family is berating Gregor for being late for work, Grete asks, 'Gregor? Aren't you well? Do you need anything?' And when he continues to refuse to open the door, she quietly slips away to cry. At this point she is young and wants to help, but feels helpless.

We can tell that Gregor and Grete have previously had a fairly close relationship based on the fact that during the difficult times Gregor wishes for Grete to be there, and the few times he laments in this story it's about the fact that he cannot confide with Grete as he did in the past.

After the family gets over the initial shock and sends the doctor away before he can see Gregor, it is Grete who pulls herself together well enough to actually get food for Gregor. She simply leaves it by the door for him. When she notices that he isn't eating his normal favorites, she begins to leave out a variety of food in order to determine what he will now eat. During this initial shock, the sight of Gregor still terrifies her, and when she opens to door to collect the food that night, she initially slams it shut again at the sight of him. But she regrets her behavior and quickly returns so that she can get him food.

Grete Grows Up

Gregor thinks to himself that prior to this incident, Grete had simply been viewed by their parents as a child and even an annoyance. With this new responsibility that she takes upon herself, she begins to grow up. And she likes the new power and responsibility. At one point Grete realizes that Gregor's only entertainment is running around the room, and so determines that the room must be emptied so that he has more space to roam. Their mother disagrees, saying that taking away the furniture and decorations in the room will cause Gregor to feel as though they have given up hope for him.

Gregor actually agrees with his mother, but cannot speak to let them know. Grete, as this has become her little project, 'had become used to the idea, not without reason, that she was Gregor's spokesman to his parents about the things that concerned him.' When Gregor tries to stop them from removing some of the items it causes his mother to go into a fit, and Grete to sharply reprimand Gregor. She is no longer the quiet little girl whispering at the door, asking if Gregor is okay; she is now in charge and in power.

Grete's Breaking Point

Gregor was the primary bread winner prior to his transformation, so the other family members must take on more work now. And as work continues to be piled on Grete, she gets to the point that she feels she can no longer clean Gregor's room - work has been difficult for her. The family finally decides to take in some tenants in order to gain extra income. Gregor, attracted to his sister's violin playing, comes out to join the family. This (understandably) terrifies the new tenants, and they run away insisting they will pay them nothing.

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