The significance of the 'Three Metamorphoses' in Nietzsche's 'Thus Spake Zarathustra'.

Essay by n2098938University, Bachelor'sB+, May 2004

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In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche presents a work of therapeutic philosophy. According to the book's protagonist, Zarathustra, the whole world is suffering from a sickness. By following the advice he expounds, one can become cured. In the section 'Of the Three Metamorphoses', Zarathustra describes the various stages in man's recovery:

"I name you three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit shall become a camel, and the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child." (p.54)

These metaphors describe the different potentialities in the transformation of the human consciousness, arriving at a state of well being. In this essay I will explain what, according to Zarathustra, this sickness of mankind is and explore how it can be cured through the 'Three Metamorphoses', addressing the difficulties and proposed solutions of each stage. I will also question whether, at the end of the book, Zarathustra has been able to follow his own teaching, and metamorphose into a 'child'.

An acute realisation of man's sickness is provided in the figure of the Ultimate Man. The Ultimate Man represents the final degradation of the human being, the "most contemptible man." (p.45). The Ultimate Man feels he has reached the goal of his existence, a point past which there is no need to strive. Consequently, he "can no longer despise himself", and makes no attempt to improve:

"Alas! The time is coming when man will no more shoot the arrow of his longing out over mankind, and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to twang." (p.46)

The Ultimate Men live lives of simple comfort, unquestioningly following rules they are told to. In doing so, they presume they are happy: "'We have discovered happiness', say the Ultimate Men and blink." (p.46). These people are significantly described in collective terms by Zarathustra,