Discuss Kafka's use of animal and food metaphors in Die Verwandlung

Essay by hilda2009University, Bachelor'sA+, February 2010

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Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung is a short story that is an example of how writing can transform beyond recognition. The title already implies this, and the animal and food metaphors within in the text help to achieve this.

The first reference to an animal is already found in the first line of the story. Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and finds himself transformed into an “ungeheureren Ungeziefer”. We don’t know exactly what sort of creature he is, and we are never told. He is referred to as an “Untier”, an “Insekt” and a “Käfer”, and from the descriptions given it is hard to picture him. But what beetle-like creature is so big that it cannot fit through a door frame? The fact that we are only given a vague picture of Gregor’s new state seems to suggest that his actual transformation is more important than what he has been transformed into.

This creature obviously isn’t the product of nature. It is the product of Kafka’s imagination. This leads me to think that there is a similarity between this short story and a fairy tale. In fairy tales we are presented with unrealistic fantasies which are remote from our lives, and we accept them as characters in a fantasy world. A man who is turned in to a beetle overnight could easily be a fairy-tale theme, but the difference in Die Verwandlung is that the rest of Gregor’s world does not change, and there is no hope of this transformation ever being undone. But maybe it is our experience of fairy-tale conventions that makes us accept what the narrator presents us with in the first line, even though it seems absurd.

Gregor is an animal that thinks like a human being but whose bodily condition has been reduced to...