The primary literary devices used by Kafka include metaphor, allegory, irony, and imagery.
Metaphor. It is a word or expression used in a figurative sense. It attempts to compare one object or phenomenon with another based on their common characteristic. We will further discuss other definitions in the text; visit this source if you need to learn more. The transformation of Gregor Samsa represents an extended metaphor. Kafka depicts Gregor’s true existence in the life of a beetle before he turns into a real insect. Imprisoned in his existence, Gregor cannot quit his job. He is the only one in the family who makes an income. All family members depend on him. After the transformation, he is a disgrace to the whole family. He is a kind of parasite.
Allegory. It is an artistic representation of ideas through a specific creative image. We may consider the whole story as an allegory. Firstly, Gregor looks like a vermin in a physical and psychological sense after the transformation. The Metamorphosis was published during World War I. A period of crucial changes in politics and society. The text refers to the isolation that people felt at that time.
Irony. It is a satirical device in which the true meaning contradicts the explicit one. Kafka uses several types of irony. The first example is verbal irony. Verbal irony contrasts what is happening to what is being said. Gregor Samsa wakes up and finds himself as a giant beetle. He spends time lying in bed, blaming his work for current circumstances. He is thinking about how he has to go back to it. “…What a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen! Traveling day in and day out…” – this quote is ironic because Gregor “did not” choose this career.
Another example is dramatic irony. We consider it when the reader knows something that the characters do not know. Then the characters’ actions seem ridiculous or absurd to the reader. This is the irony we see when the chief reprimands Gregor for not coming to work. He hints that he may lose his job. His long speech would have been appropriate under normal state. We know the details of what happened, and the chief does not.
Imagery. It is a form of interpreting something from the position of a particular aesthetic ideal. Of course, it is not easy to talk about aesthetics in The Metamorphosis. However, this is what Kafka uses. Since Gregor was an insect, his perception of his surroundings had changed. Kafka uses images to show this. Once suitable for a man, his room was rebuilt to make it ideal for his more rugged body.
In conclusion, we have to mention that most of these techniques are related to figurative language. The novella has these devices in abundance. In addition to present examples, you can find many others. This article shows the primary techniques while there are more specific ones. For instance, surrealism, as a combination of dream and reality. The plot is easier to imagine as a fantasy than as a reality.