From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Gregor is the main character of the story. He works as a traveling salesman in order to provide money for his sister and parents. He wakes up one morning finding himself transformed to an insect. After the metamorphosis, Gregor becomes unable to work and a claustrophile. This prompts his family to begin working once again.
The name "Gregor Samsa" appears to derive partly from literary works Kafka had read. The hero of The Story of Young Renate Fuchs, by German-Jewish novelist Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934), is a certain Gregor Samsa. The Viennese author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose sexual imagination gave rise to the idea of masochism, is also an influence. Sacher-Masoch (note the letters Sa-Mas) wrote Venus in Furs (1870), a novel whose hero assumes the name Gregor at one point. A "Venus in furs" literally recurs in "The Metamorphosis" in the picture that Gregor Samsa has hung on his bedroom wall. The name Samsa is similar to Kafka in its play of vowels and consonants: "Five letters in each word. The S in the word Samsa has the same position as the K in the word Kafka. The A "is in the second and fifth positions in both words." Kafka, when asked, would deny the significance of this correlation.
Gregor Samsa appears to be based upon Kafka himself. As when Kafka suffered from insomnia he feared he was repulsive and a burden to his family, during this time his sister was his caretaker.