In the short story, Metamorphosis, the narrator describes Gregor’s new life as an insect. He then goes on to describe Gregor’s sister, Grete, with a reflection of Gregor’s opinion in the description. Kafka employs a number of stylistic devices including descriptive imagery, metaphors, and symbolism in the passage to describe the situation. While these devices on their own just provide a more complex method of painting the situation, the way they are assembled in the passage serves to depict a comparison of power between Gregor and Grete. The creation of such a multifaceted evaluation further increases the reader’s sympathy towards Gregor’s situation.
Firstly, Gregor is characterized with many literary descriptors. “Sense of freedom” is the first occurrence of relevant descriptive imagery. The freedom is what he used to posses before the metamorphosis, however he no longer has liberty outside his room. That is where the second image of “looking out” the window comes into play. The looking out symbolizes Gregor’s reflection on the liberties he used to posses when he could leave his room, and of the outdoors, there by limiting his experiences. This is supported with the imagery of his vision weakening. The imagery reflects a tone of pessimism, in that Gregor is loosing hope for a recovery. All the imagery serves to sympathies with Gregor because his situation is depicted as bleak.
The symbol of Gregor’s knowledge is his vision, which is the primary medium for humans gain knowledge. With his sight diminishing, he is no longer able to discover as much as would be able to normally and even starting to disbelieve his previous knowledge. This is mentioned when he said that if he had not known he was living on a city street, he would have thought he was in a desert. The city street is a symbol of his previous knowledge, filled with memories of various activities he has done throughout his life, but now his mind is barren, similar to the desert, and void of anything distinct, it is just one large grey area that extends to the horizon. This contrast is the most powerful symbol of his power after the metamorphosis, and provides the reader with a vivid image of Gregor’s situation.
His description of his lack of power is further supported by his inability to convey his dissatisfaction with the way Grete enters the room. This builds up the sympathy for Gregor by, in effect, comparing him to a handicapped person. In addition his action of adapting to the circumstances by hiding under the sofa when she comes in symbolizes his primitive instinct is still with him, and he is not completely handicapped.
In the same manner, Grete possesses many literary devices that characterize her. Gregor, as explained before, has no freedom in his life beyond his room, in contrast, the liberty to come and go is exercised by Grete every day, through the description of her chores in Gregor’s room. The tone that one gets from reading the line, “without even time to shut the door,” is rushed, hasty, and inconsiderate. By portraying this characteristic about Grete, Gregor’s pessimistic attitude becomes quite evident, enlightening the reader on the psychological changes going on in his head and allowing for a broader understanding of his psyche.
Gregor’s description of his sister, “quick-wittedness” is a metaphor for her power. This not only shows that she competent, but that she also can adapt to the circumstances, which is the only ability that the two characters have in common. This ability is used as corner stone to establish a similarity between the two, so that they are not entirely irrelevant. Once the connection between Grete and Gregor is evident, then the other comparisons fall into place around it.
In another respect, Grete is depicted as successful. In the line “She certainly tried to make as light as possible of whatever was disagreeable to her task, and as time went on, she succeeded,” Grete’s ability to fulfill her goal, to make light whatever disagreeable, demonstrates her capability to use knowledge and experience to overcome her problems. The contrast to Gregor is that he is losing hope, while Grete strives forward. While some readers may look at Gregor with less light, considering he is a defeatist, most would look towards it with pity for what his situation has done to him, turn a strong-willed, hard-working person into a pessimist.
However, Grete does have her shortcomings. When she rushes to the window to tear open the casements, she demonstrates a brash, inconsiderate attitude. This is unusual when just before, Gregor describes her in such kindness. This incongruity further serves to expand the contrast between the two characters, and thus provide more insight into their relationship. The action of closing the door to shield the sight of Gregor from the outside is symbolic of her cutting Gregor off from experiences, knowledge about the outside world and his family. Therefore leaving it open, as well as opening the windows shows that she is letting the light in. With not only demonstrating character growth, but also aiding Gregor in his situation, Grete is further portrayed in greater light.
The passage is important to the book, because it demonstrates not only the difference in power between the two characters, but also how the characters regard one another. This comparison is the summary of all the events that had happened up to that point and therefore allows the reader experience the climax to the full. Gregor’s decent into darkness serves also to increase the reader’s pathos, if Metamorphosis could be considered a tragedy. In addition the reader develops a greater appreciation for Grete because of her power, and what she chooses to do with it. In short, the passage increases the reader’s sympathy towards Gregor through the creation of a complex assessment of both Gregor and Grete. Kafka’s use of imagery, metaphors and diction, to depict the circumstances that are no longer under his control further illuminates the position of Gregor. Furthermore, the use of these devices to create such a complex portrait of the differences between the Grete and Gregor represents the masterpiece that is the book. All in all the style in the passage not only emphasizes but clarifies Gregor’s situations, and the families.
Often he just lay there the long nights through without sleeping at all, scrabbling for hours on the leather. Or he nerved himself to the great effort of pushing an arm-chair to the window, then crawled up over the window-sill and, braced against the chair, leaned against the window-panes, obviously in some recollection of a sense of freedom looking out of a window always used to give him. For in reality, day by day, things that were even a little way off were growing dimmer to his sight; the hospital across the street, which he used to execrate for being all too often before his eyes, was now quite beyond his range of vision, and if he had not known that he lived in Charlotte Street, a quiet street, but still a city street, he might have believed that his window gave on a desert waste where grey sky and grey land blended indistinguishably into each other. His quick witted sister only needed to observe twice that the armchair stood by the window; after that, whenever she had tidied the room, she always pushed the chair back to the same place at the window and even left the inner casements open.
If he could have spoken to her and thanked her for all she had to do for him, he could have more her ministrations better; as it was, they oppressed him. She certainly tried to make light as possible of whatever was disagreeable in her task, and as time went on he succeeded, of course, more and more, but time bought more enlightenment to Gregor too. The very way she came in distressed him. Hardly was she in the room when she rushed to the window, without even taking time to shut the door, carefully as she was usually to shield the sight of Gregor’s room from the others.