The charwoman is an elderly woman who cleans the Samsas’ flat each morning and evening, hired only after their young servant girl leaves in response to Gregor’s presence. Kafka describes her as “a gigantic bony charwoman with white hair flying round her head” and a body that “enabled her to survive the worst a long life could offer.” This characterization suggests that, like Gregor, she has been worn down over time by the demands of her work. Perhaps this explains why the charwoman never fears looking in on Gregor’s large insect body: she intuitively understands the toll that “the worst” of life can take, and it cannot faze her.
Unlike Gregor, however, the charwoman maintains a strong connection to her identity as a worker, and this commitment seems to inspire the sense of superiority that she holds over him. Beyond the fact that she does not fear him like his family does, she initially calls out to him by using the phrase “old dung-beetle.” Gregor believes that the charwoman thinks she is being friendly, but regardless of her intention, the negative connotations associated with the phrase “old dung-beetle” suggest some level of condescension. The charwoman becomes even more dehumanizing towards Gregor when she begins throwing unwanted items into his room, effectively turning his space into a garbage dump. When she discovers that Gregor is dead, she only refers to him as “it” and giggles happily as she notifies the family that his body has been disposed of. The charwoman has a degree of control over Gregor’s environment and existence, and she seems to take great pleasure in exercising this power over him at the end of the novella. While the charwoman’s working-class background could give her a reason to sympathize with Gregor’s plight, the fact that she instead exacerbates his dehumanization highlights the heartlessness of their environment.