Characterization in “The Metamorphosis” by Kafka


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka presents the story of Gregor, a salesperson who wakes up being transformed into an insect. The narrator helps the audience to understand the characters’ feelings and thoughts, describing not only the events happening in the story but also Gregor’s perspectives on them. This paper discusses the use of the limited third-person view in The Metamorphosis and addresses the development of the protagonist throughout the plot.

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The Use of the Third Person

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a notable narrative both because of its plot and because of the point of view presented in the story. The author utilizes the limited third-person perspective, which means that although the narrator is not Gregor Samsa, he seems omniscient, as he addresses the events from a highly knowledgeable point of view. Abrams notes that in the limited point of view, the narrator “stays inside the confines of what is perceived, thought, remembered and felt by a single character” (223). Thus, Kafka’s work allows the audience to analyze the deeper motifs of the protagonist.

In Kafka’s book, the storyteller addresses both Gregor’s actions and his feelings and thoughts, too, not only showing him to the readers but also telling them about him. For instance, in the sentences “he was lying on his hard, armor-plated back” or “Gregor had grown calmer,” Kafka shows us the picture of Gregor (Gardner et al. 90-91). It is possible to say that in these sentences, the author’s narrative is similar to those the audience can see in other books. Here, the narrator only describes the character but does not disclose his thoughts, leaving the reader to “infer the motives and dispositions that lie behind what they say and do” (Abrams 33).

In comparison, in phrases like “it wasn’t clear whether the father’s behavior was to blame or whether the realization was dawning on them that they had unknowingly had a next-door neighbor like Gregor,” the narrator tries to analyze the characters’ actions (Gardner et al. 122). In these sentences, the author intervenes to describe to possible motives of the character (Abrams 34). It is possible to say that the narrator’s omniscience and the disclosure of Gregor’s thoughts are a significant part of the story. According to Abrams, the audience typically perceives characters as individuals having particular intellectual and emotional qualities, which can be identified from their actions and words (32-33). Thus, the narrator becomes one of the inherent parts of the story and can be considered one of its characters that does not disclose the information about himself but knows a lot about others.

Development of the Character

It is possible to say that Gregor’s personality does not change significantly through the development of the story. When something unpleasant happens to him, he does not complain and accepts the hardships patiently. At the same time, it is possible to say that the style of the narration evolves as the story continues. For instance, at the beginning of the story, the author does not analyze or disclose Gregor’s concerns much. The narrator concentrates on describing the character’s physical appearance and focuses on his words rather than actions. The author helps the audience to understand that the most significant concern Gregor has is that he cannot leave for work being turned into an insect.

However, as the story develops, the narrator starts paying more attention to the characters’ feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Some of the first thoughts presented in the story are simple, such as “there’s simply no use staying idle in bed” (Gardner et al. 92). In comparison, some of the last ones are “his thoughts went back to his family with tenderness and love” (Gardner et al. 125). Thus, as the narrative develops, the audience is able to understand the character more.

In addition, it is possible to say that Gregor’s actions change slightly throughout the story. For example, at the beginning of the narrative, he believes that he should try to catch his train and go to the office; he is dedicated to living his normal life. By the end of the story, however, Gregor is not in a rush and “remains in this state of empty, peaceful meditation” (Gardner et al. 125). He has resigned himself to his condition and is ready to face the outcomes of his transformation. Thus, although the character does not develop new qualities throughout the story, the audience sees his personality more clearly as the narrator starts using the “telling” approach by the end of the book.

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The use of the limited third-person view in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis allows the audience to obtain the perspective on what Gregor perceives, thinks, and feels throughout the story. The author presents an omniscient narrator that discloses the character’s deepest emotions, which is a notable part of the story, too. The character’s personality does not evolve significantly throughout the book, but the narration becomes more analytical, while Gregor starts accepting his fate and stops trying to live his ordinary life.

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StudyCorgi. "Characterization in “The Metamorphosis” by Kafka." June 9, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Characterization in “The Metamorphosis” by Kafka'. 9 June.

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