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Symbolism in 'the Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka

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One can recognize the use of symbolism in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis due to Kafka's ability to transcend reality and create a world which could only exist in the human subconscious mind, where allegories rein free. The main protagonist of the story-or rather what he's become- is a strong example of this, the way Gregor Samsa is transformed into a "monstrous vermin" is symbolism in and of itself. This event could be interpreted into a number of effects. His transformation could mean a new life, or perhaps simply his way of thinking being changed from one night to another. Maybe he finally realized the way his family treated him, whether they did it sub-consciously or not. This alteration of Gregor's life makes it impossible for him to continue with plans he had already set in stone: he could no longer provide for the family, he was unable to send his sister of to the Conservatory, he was no longer reliable.

Of everything Kafka could have made Gregor transform into, he chose an insect. A beetle-like vermin, the farthest organism from being human, yet as he lays there in his pathetic, and powerless disposition, he is just that, human.

Even before he was transformed, when he mentions how he had learned to "[lock] all the doors during the night even at home", the symbolism is ever present. The locked doors or rather the very habit that he locks them, even when he's at home-the one place he's supposed to feel comfortable and invited- clue into his general seclusion. The way his sister insist he open the door, pleading and asking if he needed anything, or if all was okay, implies the way the sister is trying to lure him into the family; his mother and father however, only approach him to question him as to why is isn't out earning the money they need to pay off their debts. His room is a prison, not only physically, but metaphorically as well. He is surrounded on all sides by his family, caged in his own torturous confinement. However, he is a stranger to them as well, perhaps before his transformation even begins. The novella suggests the life Gregor Samsa led before it begun was that of a traveling salesman, an outsider to his family due to his lack or presence in their lives.

Many of the items mentioned throughout the novel are symbolism for the emotional state or thoughts. Take the apple his father throws at him for example, the fruit lodges itself in his back, causing him constant pain and discomfort. This apple is the very personification of the resentment his father has against Gregor.

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