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Language in metamorphosis

Language in Metamorphosis Language is very important in metamorphosis and in Steven Berkoff’s adaptation; he uses a variety of techniques. The first is simple language, by using ordinary conversations between the family placed in unusual situations, Berkoff is able to create a strange experience for the audience “There’s brother Gregor” “Isn’t it nice that she always waits up for me”

The use of short sentences by the characters and simple vocabulary used, compliment Berkoff’s choice of minimalist set, costume and scenery, giving focal point to the themes and sending messages of the subplots to the audience, so that they are more evident and reasonable to the audience.

At the same time, a range of stylized speech patterns are used, the natural and mechanical speech placed side by side removes all naturalism. There is also a variation in language used by different characters throughout the play.

For example, the Lodgers show Berkoff’s use of juxtaposition, he uses a very contrasting language, with complex vocabulary.

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Berkoff chooses to use this style of language to create the idea that the Lodgers represent society, for example, they are able to finish each other’s sentences, as if they were generalised thoughts and are exactly what the public are thinking. The tone of the lodgers is often aggressive; “We’re sticklers for order” “Can’t bear slovenliness” In the stage directions, Berkoff gave the option of the lodger being played by a single actor, instead of three, complying with the ignorance of society.

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This is one way in which the language is delivered and is also very important to the way Berkoff chooses to present Metamorphosis, in an attempt to disconcert his audience from a typical piece of naturalistic theatre. In the play, Berkoff continues to destroy the naturalism by the use of the third person. In doing this, he blocks the communication between the characters, the audience then views this from a perspective that is not directly from a particular character. This way they can form their own opinions. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams” He found himself transformed into a gigantic insect” “His numerous legs, which were pitifully, thin… ” Another technique used in the play, through means of language, is the use of direct address. This appears in individual speeches, called soliloquies. Unlike in the use of the ‘third person’, the audience is able to emphasise and feel sympathy or shock in response to the words delivered by a particular character. It is also at a time when the audience is most vulnerable, for example at the start of the play, and allows them therefore to gain these reactions.

Gregor uses direct address on several occasions throughout the play, creating a theme of loneliness and separation. By using direct address, the actors are able to use the Brechtian technique of breaking down the ‘fourth wall’, meaning the audience was not simply a spectator, but instead became mentally involved in the action happening in front of them. “All I can see from the floor is a dab grey sky- I so much want to see my mother… Perhaps I’m too hideous ever to see her again” The theme of Gregor’s isolation is enhanced when he addresses his own family but is unheard by them. I’m not an animal, I can hear the music… stop playing, spit at these intruders, Greta, play only for me” Berkoff relies on the use of rhythmic speech, which enhances the image of the completely monotonous and boring life the Gregor used to lead. This also emphasizes the issue of time, which is used throughout the play, and once again, this exemplifies the isolation and loneliness he feels. Near the start of the play, the family mechanically symbolises their domestic life in time to the ticking.

In the stage directions, they are described as ‘wax works’, perhaps to suggest that they have no purpose but to throw orders at Gregor. The use of rhythm and repetition of the word ‘Gregor’ allows language to exist in a variety of monotonous orders and needs. The family call what Gregor means to them. “Gregor” “Cash” Gregor” “Shoes” In this, the family let out their feelings in short words at one point. Perhaps a sign of desperation, telling us what Gregor means to them and why they cant lose him as if they were to lose him; they would lose all of the luxuries or necessities in life.

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Language in metamorphosis. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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