Gregor Samsa’s sister, Grete, in The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, seems to undergo a metamorphosis that is parallel to her brother’s. As Gregor takes on the characteristics of an insect, Grete gains her independence and maturity.
Before Gregor’s transformation, Grete seems to be his only close companion. She writes letters to him while he is away from home, and her first words to Gregor in the story are kind and caring: “Gregor? Aren’t you well? Are you needing anything?” (368). Later in the story, we learn that Gregor had planned to announce to his family his intention to send Grete to the Conservatorium, suggesting his close relationship with her.
After Gregor’s transformation, Grete initially seems to care about and feel concern for his well-being, as she would have before his metamorphosis. When she first sees Gregor, she shuts the door quickly in surprise, but she opened it again and “came in on tiptoe, as if she were visiting an invalid or even a stranger” (378). She didn’t want to disturb him and acted very polite around him. She sets out different types of food for him, to see which he likes the best. She also notices his new habits of his, and helps him keep them. For instance, leaving the chair by the window when she notices that he moves it there.
Through this, however, there is an obvious detachment and separation from Gregor after his transformation. The fact that Grete entered Gregor’s room feeling like he was a stranger implies her changed feeling toward him. Gregor had a basin “for his exclusive use,” as if his family could not use something after he had touched it (378). Also, his sister never touches the food that he doesn’t eat, even when it is apparent that he didn’t touch the food.
The sight of Gregor seems to cause a change in Grete’s behavior toward her brother. This may be evident when Gregor covers himself with a sheet, and he “even fancied that he caught a thankful glance from her eye” (382). Before this incident, Grete views Gregor as her brother in an unfortunate state. After she sees him, however, she begins to see him more as a creature than as her brother. At the same time, Gregor is beginning to eat less and act more like an insect than a human.
Another example of Grete’s changed attitude toward Gregor is her increasingly protective attitude toward the responsibility of taking care of Gregor, which soon seems to be more of a struggle between Grete and her parents than that of care for her brother. Gregor’s predicament creates an opportunity for Grete to be seen as more helpful and responsible to her parents. It seems that Grete becomes more concerned with cleaning Gregor’s room to prove her responsibility and maturity to her parents, and not necessarily with looking after Gregor’s welfare. Gregor still sees her, however, as “only a child despite the efforts she was making and had perhaps taken on so difficult a task merely out of childish thoughtlessness” (382).
Grete has her own opinions of what is good for Gregor, which many times opposes Gregor’s feelings, and she sees herself as “an expert in Gregor’s affairs” (384). Also, quite frequently these opinions oppose her parents’ views, which indicates that she is disagreeing with them for the sake of disagreeing, and again not concerning herself with the well-being of her brother. Grete is given a great deal of power when taking the role of caretaker over Gregor, and she uses the full extent of this power, and perhaps even abuses it. she is the one to decide if someone is allowed to visit Gregor and she determines what should be done with Gregor’s room.
Progressively, Grete begins to act against Gregor and begins to show less consideration and concern for his feelings, just as Gregor is beginning to care less about his family and more about his own situation. When Grete’s father comes home after Gregor has scared his mother and is out of his room, Grete doesn’t try to defend Gregor. Gregor gathers that “Grete’s all too brief statement” will lead to his father’s anger (386).
Another example of Grete’s changed feelings toward Gregor is the appearance of Gregor’s room. At first, when she notices that he likes to crawl around on the walls and ceiling, she clears his path by taking away furniture. Later, his room becomes a storage area for unneeded things from the rest of the house. She begins to neglect areas of Gregor’s room that become increasingly unclean.
Gregor has also gained an outside perspective of his appearance through the actions and reactions of Grete. In one instance, after Grete comes early to Gregor’s rom and sees him, she “jumped back as if in alarm and banged the door shut.” Gregor then states that “this made him realize how repulsive the sight of him still was to her” (382).
Grete continuously views Gregor as more of a creature, until Gregor comes out of his room to hear his sister play the violin and scares away the three lodgers. Grete says, “I won’t utter my brother’s name in the presence of this creature” (394). She continues to refer to him as a creature by referring to Gregor as “it” and, finally, questions whether the insect really is Gregor.
The final realization of Grete’s metamorphosis is at the end of the story when Grete’s parents “became aware of their daughter’s increasing vivacity” and see that “she had bloomed into a pretty girl with a good figure” (399).
The point at which Grete is seen as having changed through the situation into a young woman is also the point at which Gregor is viewed by himself and the people around him, as well, as no longer human, but an insect to be thrown out with the garbage.