Franz Kafka?S The Metamorphosis Essay, Research Paper
Despite appearances which may seem to promote a sense of comedy, Franz Kafka’s The
Metamorphosis actually contains an enormous quantity of symbolism, which serves to underscore several
literal events which may have taken place in said story. Within the novella, many literary techniques are
employed in order to contribute to the depth of the story line, with symbolism being the most prevalent,
though not the sole method. These other literary tools are secondary in their nature, but they remain quite
For example, a sense of Weltschmertz (“world pain”) can be felt by the main character, Gregor
Samsa, in part due to such imagery as “the overcast sky,” the “rain drops,” and “uneasy dreams.” Ideas
such as these help to buttress this sense of despair and melancholy with the world and all of its various
wrongs. The references to Weltschmertz are also reinforced by Gregor Samsa’s (the main character)
comments such as “what an exhausting job I’ve picked on!” when speaking of his position as a traveling
salesman. It is not so much that one single item caused his depression, but a conglomeration of the
stresses of a monotonous life that makes the character feel as if he bears the weight of the world upon his
shoulders. A dichotomy occurs within the story. A critic could argue that the account is a hallucination or
fit on the part of the main character, but another could also argue that the events described within the story
are meant to be taken as they are written.
Later on in the story, the theme of “world pain” is further supported by the use of certain language.
At one point, Gregor Samsa, exasperated from efforts to get out of bed, exclaims “seven o’clock already
and still such a thick fog”! On a deeper level, this so-called “fog” that the narrator mentions could be
examined from more of a metaphorical standpoint. It could be referring to the haze of confusion that has
gripped Gregor Samsa thanks to the changing of his form. It could also buttress the Weltschmerz notions
because fog indicates a gloomy, dreary, and dank atmosphere. The environment is expected, from this, to
be cold, to be moist in some unpleasant way, and to promote a general feeling of isolation.
Even as he mustered what minute ability he had in order to turn the key to the lock in his room and
open the door, his parents pleaded with him with little to no understanding of his plight and the chief clerk,
his supervisor, railed him with threats and insults. It is an obvious attempt to make Gregor feel inadequate
and inferior. He goes on to speak of the encouragement that he should have been receiving from his parents
as he struggled to open the door. It shows that even his loved ones, much like the world as a whole, had a
rather meager quantity of compassion for this insect-like animorph.
Additionally, a somewhat odd sense of irony can be seen when the narrator speaks about how the
“porter was a creature of the chief’s, spineless and stupid.” A pathetic and lowly cockroach, Gregor Samsa,
is obviously intelligent and aware of his level of existence, while the human being referred to, the porter, is
reduced to what amounts to some kind of worthless automaton, who simply reacts to orders he receives.
Also, much reference is made to the appearance of Gregor Samsa’s newfound body. He describes
his body as that of “a gigantic insect”, but there is much more to it than merely that. He did not become a
butterfly or a dragonfly, or some other ornamented and attractive insect. No, he is transformed into a
cockroach. An unquestionably unattractive creature, which is apparently so hideous that he has to shut “his
eyes to keep from seeing his struggling legs.” Contact with an “itching place surrounded by many small
white spots…made a cold shiver run through him.” He is disgusted by his own existence on a metaphorical
level, as well as on a literal one. Even the readers themselves are able to understand Gregor’s feelings of
repulsion, as most people do not find cockroaches amiable or cuddly.
The use of personification is painfully obvious in that he gives the body of an insect human
thoughts, feelings, and reactions to what could be called social situations. This can be shown by the fact
that he lays in bed as if he were a man. He sits in a chair at times. He also responds with a human air
towards his sister, who he is afraid might be frightened by his new form.
As can easily be observed, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is rife with such literary elements as
personification, metaphor, and symbolism. Symbolism is seemingly the most prominent of the features,
with examples found throughout the entirety of the literary work.