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Shvoong Home>Books>Classic Literature>The Use of Metaphors in Kafkas’ the Metamorphosis Review

The Use of Metaphors in Kafkas’ the Metamorphosis

Book Review   by:moniny20     Original Authors: Kafka; Franz
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Change is brought about in The Metamorphosis in two different ways. The first way is by allowing time and circumstances to determine one’s decisions. The next way is by using courage and conviction to make one’s own decisions. Kafka brings about
change with the use of metaphors in The Metamorphosis. The hidden metaphors are
there and seen if one can recognize and understand them. Kafka’s cunning use of
metaphors throughout his story includes many uses of different items. Finding
the hidden and direct metaphors gives one a sense of adventure and challenge.
The transformation of Gregor into an insect is a very evident metaphor,
which can be thought of in more than one way. One may be apt to associate
“this man turned bug” as a grotesque display representing one of the lowest
forms of life. Gregor’s manager and family are disgusted by his unexplainable
physical appearance. Stunned, the manager retreats out of the house in horror,
the mother falls to the floor in grief and the father, in an attempt to get
Gregor out of sight, forces him into the doorway of his room. Gregor’s beetle
body is too large for the doorway and he finds himself stuck and unable to move,
“when from behind his father gave him a hard shove, which was truly his
salvation, and bleeding profusely, [Gregor] flew far into his room” (Kafka,
2314). Another way one might define the metaphor of this transformation is
looking at Gregor’s disassociation with the human world. A beetle cannot
communicate in language. Therefore, there is no way for Gregor to explain his
dilemma to anyone. We can see this when he tries to explain to his manager why he wasn’t on time at work, the manager asked, “Did you understand a word?” and then he
stated, “That was the voice of an animal” (Kafka, 2309). Gregor in his new state is cut off from communication with the outside world and with his family due to not being able to have a language and his hideous appearance.
One should assess that Kafka is using this metaphor with a dual purpose in mind. The family assumes Gregor has done something horrible that they are not aware of to cause his punishment of transformation. To add injury to insult, Gregor’s father has no
tolerance for his appearance and is not only cruel verbally, but also
physically. On one occasion, “He [the father] had filled his pockets from the
fruit bowl on the buffet and was now pitching one apple after another” (Kafka
2327). Gregor is injured by one of the apples that embed itself in his back
racking him with “unbelievable pain” (2327). Kafka certainly uses the apple
as a metaphor for original sin and the pain of the punishment imposed by God on
Adam and Eve. Throughout Kafka’s strange and disturbing story are two more
metaphors that are repeatedly used: food and newspapers. Kafka’s reference to
food and newspapers serve as a metaphor for the need for nourishment. Nourishment
is apparently something that the whole family is in need of. Gregor describes
the dining room table as having “The breakfast dishes laid out lavishly on the
table, since for his father breakfast was the most important meal of the day,
which he would prolong for hours while reading various newspapers” (2310-11).
The sister brings Gregor his food to find out what he might
like, “she brought him a wide assortment of things, all spread out on an old
newspaper…” (2316). The food is significant in such that they both provide
one with some sort of sustenance. The newspaper provides one with news of the
outside world. This in turn educates and fills the void one might feel by being
cut off from the world. The food, of course, fills the belly and is literally
sustenance for physical requirements to remain alive. When one thinks about it,
the same could be said of newspapers. By providing the mind with the information
and text, one is also fulfilling a physical need. This is the need to know what
is going on outside of one’s own realm and therefore fulfilling a physical
need for human contact.
Kafka’s story reflects the tragic metamorphosis of a
seemingly everyday person, who, without the ability to speak and be understood
is shut off from not only the world, but his family as well. He longs for
nurturing, sustenance and approval. But in the end, the one he was the closest
to, his sister turns against him. She tells her mother and father, “You must
just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor… If it were Gregor, he
would have realized long ago that human beings can’t live with such a creature
and he would have gone away of his own free will” (2337). This fills in the
reader that Kafka’s metaphor of “the bug” would make anyone disassociate
him or herself from the human race. Kafka’s creative and direct use of
metaphors makes the literal word of his story a challenge for the reader.
Published: May 16, 2011   
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