Minor Characters in The Metamorphosis

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

The minor characters in Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis'' provide a lens through which readers can view many different reactions to the unusual transformation of Gregor Samsa.

Minor Characters

When we think of any work of literature, the main characters usually pop into mind first. In the case of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, everybody knows Gregor, the guy who turns into a bug. But the minor characters of the story are used to help us see the various reactions to this change in form. Let's take a look at these minor characters and their contribution to the reader's experience.

The Office Manager

When Gregor Samsa awakens to find that he has become an insect, he almost immediately realizes that he is going to be late for work. Gregor works as a traveling salesman, and he needs to catch the early train to be on time at his job.

As Gregor considers how he will get out of bed with his new body and its tiny legs, he also thinks of the pettiness of his boss and others at work. As if to confirm the strict conditions under which Gregor works, the office manager appears at Gregor's home.

The office manager is the chief clerk at Gregor's office, and he has come to see why Gregor missed the early train. Gregor thinks, ''What a fate: to be condemned to work for a firm where the slightest negligence at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion!''

Gregor's parents tell the manager that Gregor must be ill, for he is such a diligent worker that he wouldn't miss work otherwise. When Gregor refuses to leave his room, the office manager announces that Gregor is suspected of embezzlement at work. The manager defended him at the time, but ''now that I see how incredibly obstinate you are. I no longer have the slightest desire to take your part at all.''

Though Gregor's voice is no longer understandable, he manages to open his bedroom door. The Samsa family and the office manager are aghast when they see Gregor's new form, but Gregor continues to attempt to defend himself to the manager.

The sound of Gregor's voice, however, causes the office manager to back away. Gregor fears that he will lose his job if the office manager reports the morning's events to the boss. Gregor attempts to approach the visitor to discuss the situation further, but the man leaps down the stairs. As he flees the Samsa home in horror, the office manager screams, ''Aieee!''

The Cook

Gregor's condition is the primary topic of conversation in the Samsa home for many days following his metamorphosis. The cook is so shaken by the changes in Gregor that she quits her job with the family, promising that she will not tell anyone about what has happened to Gregor.

The Maid

Though she is only sixteen, Gregor seems to admire the maid because she ''had had the courage to stay on after the cook's departure.'' She has one requirement for agreeing to continue her employment with the Samsas: she will lock herself in the kitchen and stay there unless someone specifically calls for her.

As the family's financial circumstances decline, the maid must be let go.

The Charwoman

The charwoman cleans for the Samsas after the maid leaves, and she is the only character who does not seem particularly repulsed by the sight of Gregor. She's described as ''A gigantic bony cleaning woman with white hair flying around her head came in mornings and evenings to do the rough work.''

She even tries to be friendly with Gregor, saying ''Come on over here, you old dung beetle!'' she says upon entering his room.

Gregor dislikes the charwoman, so one day he charges at her when she comes into his room. She still appears not to fear him, and she lifts a chair over her head as if she plans to smash him with it.

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