Allegory in The Metamorphosis

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Stories can sometimes have deeper meanings beyond what is literally written. These stories are called allegories. In this lesson you'll learn about allegory as it appears in 'The Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka.

A Hidden Meaning

Have you ever read a story that had a hidden meaning? You may not realize it, but you probably have! When a story has a hidden meaning, especially one related to politics or morals, it is called an allegory. Allegories are a fairly common literary device. They appear when authors use their stories to indirectly comment on some aspect of human life.

One example is The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It was published during World War I, when there was a lot going on in politics and society. It was a time of heavy industrialization. In Kafka's writing, you can see a commentary on the isolation many writers felt was a by-product of how modern society was developing at the time.

Kafka used his story as an allegory for isolation.
Franz Kafka

Isolation of the Modern Age

The overarching allegory of The Metamorphosis is the idea that modern society isolates humans from one another. In the story, Gregor Samsa wakes up one day as a giant dung beetle. The rest of the story follows his thoughts and actions as he is locked in his room and cut off from his family and his former life.

You can see one aspect of the allegory when you look at Gregor's job before his transformation. He was a travelling salesman, and he tells us about his ''Travelling day in and day out…contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them...'' Gregor's job was extremely isolating. He had no close friends at all. In fact, the main decoration in his room is a picture of a woman that he found in a magazine. This shows that Gregor was so isolated he had no one real to frame a picture of.

The next level of the isolation allegory is Gregor's transformation. His family is the only lasting human connection he has, and the transformation takes that away from him. No one in his family will even look at him once he is a bug, let alone bond with him. This isolation is a more literal representation of the figurative isolation that he experienced as a human travelling salesman. Gregor, his job, and his transformation are an allegory for humanity in the modern age and how cut off they are from one another.

Complete Alienation

After his transformation, Gregor is completely alienated from his family. Alienation is when you are cut off from something you should be or used to be part of. Gregor's alienation from his family is an allegory for the alienation Kafka might have seen in his modern society, where humans living close together were alienated from one another.

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