Symbolic Similarities in "The Shunammite" and "The Metamorphosis"

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Helthall 1
Travis Helthall
Professor Rich Carpenter
ENGL102-09 English Composition II
May 8, 2012
Symbolic Similarities
Research Paper
The definition of metamorphosis as told by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows “a marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching.” (1) Whereas the Shunammite is just a woman hailing from Shumen, although the name is more so known for the biblical story of the Shunammite in the Book of Kings. That story was about a Shunammite whom was made to lay with the old and dying king David; she was a weak and vulnerable woman when it came to the idea of her being able to have children. So in the end she catered to all of King David’s wants and needs because he promised her a child if she did so. (Hampton 1-2) Although the actual meanings behind the names of the stories aren’t similar, the stories “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and “The Shunammite” by Inés Arredondo, both share qualities that go beyond they’re literal names. Both “The Metamorphosis” and “The Shunammite” have very strong senses of symbol, of which are revealed throughout both of the stories. Even though some are different, there are still many symbols that can be seen as related between the two stories. Also there seems to be many biblical references in both stories as well, not even including the obvious one which is the name “The Shunammite”. Where the symbols may not all be the same, the way Helthall 2

in which they bring about certain changes in the protagonists and their surroundings is very similar due to the situations they are put into.
The first instance of symbols rearing their heads trying to influence the protagonist, or rather, to show the overall emotion of their person are as follows: in the case of “The Metamorphosis”, as the narrator states, “His many legs, which seemed pathetically thin when compared to the rest of his body, flickered helplessly before his eyes.” (302) In Gregor’s case, his legs represent the many personal problems brewing inside of him, and the rest of his body being the difficulties of his family trying to survive if his problems overcame him; the legs flickering helplessly before his eyes implies that he’s aware of his strife, but in the end does nothing about it. As for Arredondo’s “The Shunammite”, “Nothing changed when I received the telegram; the sadness it brought me did not affect in the least my feelings towards the world” (358) Luisa whom is the protagonist as well as the narrator reacts to the telegram in a negative saddening way, yet it doesn’t change her outlook on the world, her rational emotions are extremely unwavering. Just like Gregor there seems to be emotional strife, but the protagonists are either unwilling or unable to let it affect them.

Also another shared symbol is that of sexual deviance which exists in both of the two stories. In “The Shunammite” the sexual symbol is the book in which Polo asks Luisa to get that has fallen under the bed just so he could feel her thighs up due to the sinful lust he felt. The picture of the woman in the furs in Gregor’s room and also Gregor himself are some of the more prevalent sexual symbols in “The Metamorphosis”, as Librett points out in the following exert: Gregor's father comes in when the mother has just been reduced to fainting because she has seen Gregor clinging to the picture of a woman in furs that hangs

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on his wall. Gregor is afraid that the shock of the sight will kill her. The father, for his part, pursues Gregor threateningly, suspecting that Gregor has done some kind of violence. Not only is the reader led by the image of the woman in furs to infer that the violence to the mother is of a sexual nature, and then anally inflected by the appearance of Gregor to his mother here as a “gigantic brown spot”. (3) Both symbolic items cause the...
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