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What are the symbols in The Metamorphosis?

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One of the major symbols in The Metamorphosis is the door. There are multiple ways to interpret it in the book. It symbolizes a portal that separates Gregor from the beetle from his human parents and sister. Moreover, this portal sends messages from Gregor’s family and shows their intentions. If the door opens, even slightly, it means that somebody wants to visit him but may be afraid of seeing him in his new appearance. If the door is closed, the family keeps Gregor out of view.

The door also allows Gregor to take part in the everyday activities of the house. Through the crack in the door, Gregor could see that somebody was in the living room. It serves as a window into everyday life and allows him to observe the family’s daily routine.

The door is also the symbol of the barrier. Gregor is helpless, and he has no choice but to adapt to the lifestyle of others. Most often, the door is closed. It means that the family does not want to see him and does not welcome him into their life. For Gregor, such a simple thing as the door becomes an impediment. He cannot reach the handle, cannot lock the door, nor open it.

The story also contains religious symbols, such as the apple. When Mrs. Samsa faints after she has seen Gregor in his new form, Mr. Samsa throws apples at his son. For a beetle, such injury is a serious one, and it causes inflammation. In the end, this injury, along with other factors, contributes to the main character’s death. In the Garden of Eden, as well as in this story, the apple means mortality. Like Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, Gregor Samsa leaves this world, and its cause is the apple.

What does the number 3 symbolize in The Metamorphosis?

One can notice that number 3 occurs several times in the book: the Samsa family finds three tenants, Gregor goes outside his room three times, the story consists of 3 parts. It may not be a coincidence, and the author used this symbol on purpose. This number plays an essential role in Christianity, and it repeatedly appears in the Bible.

In The Metamorphosis, it serves as another religious symbol which may represent the Holy Trinity. Gregor’s transformation includes three stages.

The first one is the negation. When Gregor discovers that he became a bug, he does not accept that this will influence his life. The second phase is acceptance.

The main character realizes that he is a beetle and begins to behave himself as a beetle. He discovers that he likes living under the furniture and climbing the walls. The last stage is the degeneration and death of the main character. At the end of the story, Gregor refuses to eat and starves to death.

Another symbol is the picture on the wall in Gregor’s room, which depicts a woman in furs. When Mrs. Samsa and Grete start to remove the furniture from Gregor’s room, he cannot part with it and clings to it. The picture is fundamental to Gregor as it represents human life, which he is not ready to forget.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'What are the symbols in The Metamorphosis'. 29 January.

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