Notes on Characters from Stories of Franz Kafka

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Stories of Franz Kafka Major Characters

Gregor Samsa: Gregor Samsa is a young traveling salesman living at home, supporting his parents and sister. One morning he awakens in an altered physical state: he is in the body of a large bug (cockroach, beetle). He wonders what will become of himself, his family, and his job, as he struggles to survive in his new body. As time progresses, he learns how to move, eat, and keep to himself. His family grows progressively afraid of him, locking him in his room, hurling objects at him, and painstakingly removing all objects from his room. As he continues to live as this creature, he becomes more alienated from the real world and his family, and eventually realizes that his is only a burden on his family. His sister, while once the one voice of sympathy and caring, has turned against him. After brining his family into financial disaster, the house into dirt and overpopulation, Gregor finally dies in his room…as the bug into which he had transformed.

Mr. Samsa: Mr. Samsa is Gregor’s father and the fallback keeper of the house. Because Gregor works, he has been able to live a splendid, relaxed life without worry. After Gregor’s metamorphosis, he must run the family on the money he saved over the years. Nonetheless, he eventually takes a job to make money with the rest of the family. Mr. Samsa hurls an apple at Gregor, leaving an injury that plagues him for the rest of his animal life. Ultimately, it is Mr. Samsa who feels the most distant from Gregor and knows not what to do with him. He accedes quickly to Grete’s desires to rid the family of the creature that they believe is no longer Gregor.

Mrs. Anna Samsa: Anna Samsa is Gregor’s mother, a kind woman who suffers from severe asthma. She genuinely cares for Gregor, despite her constant fear of his body and its traces. She faints upon seeing her husband throw fruit at Gregor and tries to stop the violence from continuing. However, when she sees the marks left on the walls by Gregor, she becomes equally upset. At the end of the novel, she has difficulty dealing with her son’s death. Yet, like the rest of the family, she quickly moves on to focus on Grete’s new blossoming body.

Grete Samsa: Grete Samsa is Gregor’s younger seventeen-year-old sister, whom he desperately loves. She plays the violin and has hopes of eventually attending the conservatory. She initially cares for Gregor and visits him to feed him inside his room. It is because of Grete’s own sanity that Gregor decides to cover himself with a sheet when people see him. However, when Grete plays the violin at the end of the novel, it is her music that lures Gregor out of his room. Gregor wants people to see that he still loves people and music; unlike a true animal. Ultimately, Grete is the voice of action to rid the family of the creature that is Gregor. She believes that Gregor no longer exists and that the creature lives in the house with them to torture and frustrate them. After Gregor’s death, the family realizes that Grete is growing into a beautiful, voluptuous young woman, and is now of age to find a suitable husband.

The Trapeze Artist: The trapeze artist is a man of infinite skill and persistent fear and trepidation. Although he makes a living by daring to swing hundreds of feet in the air above spectators, he secretly has trouble traveling and swinging alone. He has few friends, as he spends most of his time in his trapeze, and desperately wants a second trapeze in his act. Although nobody can see it, his life is plagued by fear – evident in his furrowing brow.

The Manager: The trapeze artist’s manager loves his client and his work, and will do anything to help him. He tries to make the artist’s life easier by arranging comfortable living and traveling conditions, and eventually promises a second trapeze for the act. He also notices the first sign of fear and anxiety within the trapeze the artist: a furrow in his brow.

The Narrator: The narrator is a man who cannot understand why the little woman hates him so. His every motion, utterance, and breathe seem to cause her infinite strife, and he is confused, for he feels as if he is strangers with this woman. He continues his life as best he can, keeping such an uncomfortable manner as covert as possible.

The Little Woman: The little woman never speaks in the story, but lives her life in constant terror and annoyance with the narrator. Although they are strangers, she cannot stand his every movement, being, breath, speech. She hates him and is frustrated by everything that he does. This frustration spreads into her appearance.

The Fasting-artist: The fasting-artist is a man of pure work and honest ethics whose job and passion it is to starve in a spectacle for forty days. However, his glory days are over, and people no longer care to look at him in his cage and see him take his first bite. He has been reduced to living inside a cage at a circus, where nobody knows of his honor, rewards, and honesty, and eventually dies as another piece of excess junk passed by.

Josephine: Josephine is an extraordinary mouse, who by the blessed nature of God, is given an extreme talent of singing. Her voice soothes the mouse people, and in turn, they see her as a special member who they must protect and worship. Some do not like her music and do not listen to it, while others, are frustrated by her lack of work in the community. She eventually vanishes from the mouse people, leaving them without music, and quickly forgotten.

Minor Characters

Gregor’s Manager: Gregor’s manager is the first visitor at the Samsa household who sees Gregor’s metamorphosis. He shrieks in terror at the sight of Gregor’s new body and races away to inform the company of Gregor’s new state.

Gregor’s Boss: Gregor’s boss sends the manager to the Samsa home to check up on Gregor. It is because of him that Gregor’s job is on the line, for he fears that Gregor may abscond with the company money, currently in his possession.

The Maid: The maid works with the Samsa family at the start of the novella and requests leave upon discovery of Gregor’s new physical state. They kindly allow her to leave.

A cleaning woman: Towards the end of the novella, the Samsa family hires a cleaning lady to come and sporadically clean up after Gregor and the three roomers. She is inconsiderate, loud, and bombastic, and is the first person to discover Gregor’s dead corpse lying on the floor of his room.

The Three Borders (Roomers): The three borders live in the Samsa household towards the end of the novella as a means of income for the Gregor’s family. They are three older men with long beards and an elitist attitude about music. When one of them discovers Gregor’s body, he immediately announces plans to leave and possibly file a complaint against Mr. Samsa. The others quickly join him. When Gregor dies, Mr. Samsa immediately asks them to leave.

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