Death and the Maiden and the Metamorphosis : a Comparative Essay

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When examining The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, their titles and storylines bear no apparent connection. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, a quiet, travelling salesman is inexplicably transformed into a giant insect. The rest of the novella explores Gregor’s relationships with his parasitic family, reflections on life, and his perception of himself. Kafka powerfully depicts the extent humans go to, to provide for those they love, as well as what can happen when one does not pay attention to their own mental and physical needs. In Death and the Maiden, Paulina Salas’ life is turned upside down when her husband inadvertently invites the doctor, who brutally tortured and raped her during a time of political unrest, to their home. She spends the rest of the evening psychosexually torturing him, in order to discover the ‘real, real truth’. Paulina had not been able to express her emotions in regards to her rape, and when confronted with the doctor, the dam explodes and her emotion floods her. However, there are certain parallels that can be seen in both works. One such parallel is pathos, or pity for the main characters, Gregor and Paulina, which is presented through imagery, diction, mood, and atmosphere.

Imagery is used by both authors in various ways to evoke pity in the reader. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka uses meticulous descriptions to depict Gregor’s physical state. For example, “His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes.” (3) Though this is a horrible image, however the descriptions continue, and feelings of pity emerge from prior feelings of abhorrence. Similarly, in Death and the Maiden, the descriptions of Paulina’s own torture, as well as descriptions of her torturing Dr. Roberto Miranda are revolting at first, however her actions seem justifiable considering her situation. “I want him to confess. I want him to sit in front of that cassette...
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