In both novels, the main characters reach a sense of realization or achieve enlightenment in distinctive ways. The comparison of the authors’ use of setting and symbols in both the novels ‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka and ‘Woman in the Dunes’ by Abe Kobo portrays a movement from a point of imprisonment to a sense of acceptance.
In the beginning of the novel, both authors Kafka and Kobo introduced the theme of imprisonment by using the setting Kafka highlights the environment in Gregor’s home with his family duties imprisoning him. The description of Gregor’s room show his imprisonment and the deterioration of his character.
“His room, a proper room for a human being, only somewhat too small, lay quietly between the four well-known walls”.
The four familiar walls represent a prison, which enhances his rapid deterioration. Gregor had no intention of leaving the confinements of his room representing his personal voluntary imprisonment, unlike Jumpei, who was forced into imprisonment. The picture frame of an illustrated magazine that hung on Gregor’s wall acts as an archetype of Gregor’s imprisonment because the woman is ‘trapped’ inside her frame in the same way that Gregor is confined to the four walls in his room, not just the physical confinement but also his emotional entrapment within himself.
The use of symbols used by both authors helps to portray both characters’ imprisonment at the beginning of their journey to meaning. One can see the transition in perspectives in character through recurring symbols.
“Gregor’s eyes then turned to the window. The dreary weather-one could hear raindrops falling on the metal window ledge made him quite melancholy”.
The window is a symbol of imprisonment, parallel to the walls. In relation to the ‘dreary weather’, which represents his ‘dreary’ life and the overcast skies imply his clouded judgment by thinking of his preceding family obligations. Kobo too, makes significant use of the symbols that depict Jumpei’s imprisonment.
Jumpei’s first encounter with the setting illustrates his uncomfortable and imprisoned state of mind. This symbolizes the conflicting nature of his conscious and unconscious self. Kobo uses the symbol of house to represent Jumpei in an uncomfortable state and depicts his lack of cohesion between his rational and irrational self.
“This house was already half dead... Sand, which did not even have a form of its own—other than the mean i/8-mm diameter.”
Kobo’s word choice ‘half dead’ is symbolic which is the deterioration of Jumpei’s character and imprisonment of his conscious being. However, his description of the sand in diameter demonstrates that he is still in his rational state of mind and has not transitioned into the irrational self he embraces later in the novel.
“At times like that, you can’t ever catch up with the sand no matter how much you shovel”.
The sand symbolizes, and Jumpei’s fear of time and death. The woman responds with death and timelessness (subconscious) whereas at this point those are still extreme values to Jumpei. This portrays that he is still imprisoned inside himself similar to Gregor’s self- imprisonment with family obligations may not, by some, be considered self-inflicted. Although, the ‘holes and cracks in the ceiling’ in Woman in the Dunes represents the gaps in his conscious and subconscious being on the borderline to his irrational self
“The holes and cracks in the ceiling boards were quickly raised in exact relief on the straw matting.”
Both the author’s pave the way for the characters’ realization and acceptance of the subconscious self through the settings and symbols to portray the manner in which the characters become accustomed to it. Both characters’ self-inflicting imprisonment...