Personification, Imagery, Irony and Tone In The Novel

Categories: The Metamorphosis


The Metamorphosis is a really unique story since it is written in a way that allows the readers to really imagine the scene or acquire a visual on what's happening according to the reader's perspective. Franz Kafka uses personification, imagery, irony and tone to affect the novel and give the readers a deeper understanding of the actual events. Personification, which gives non-humans human attributes, connects readers with the object that is personified, and this is important because, in Metamorphosis, personification covers almost the entire story.

In this story, the main character, Gregor, is constantly being personified as he was changed into a different species but was still being described as a human being. In this story, the use of personification allowed Kafka to set side by side human emotions with insect-like action, which gives the story more meaning than it would have if personification was not present. For instance, when Gregor is still in bed on the first morning, and he is feeling human emotions, which is normal if he was human but he was an insect.

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Other examples of personification from the book include how the whole book is an extended example of personification because Metamorphosis is written from the Gregor Samsa’s perspective, a travelling salesman who wakes up one day as a giant dung beetle. 

An Example of Personification in The Metamorphosis

Since his awakening, every description given to him as an example of personification. Another example is '... Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams.

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..', the reason to as why its an example of personification is because insects are not capable of waking up from anxious dreams. Imagery, in The Metamorphosis, was used to appeal to human senses for a deep understanding of the work and to engage all of family members’ senses. In literature, there are different types of imagery, such as visual imagery, auditory, olfactory, etc… but the main one used in the Metamorphosis is the Visual part since all the descriptions are used to allow us to get a visual on what's happening, hence the name “Visual Imagery”. Some examples of Imagery from the book include the example where it says “ 'He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections.' His previous skin-covered back is now transformed into a hard rock-like structure. 

Franz Kafka also used a simile to compare the hard shell to armour but the description helps the reader imagine how Gregor looks like after his transformation. Other examples include 'He only had all those little legs continuously moving in different directions, and which he was moreover unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, then that was the first one that would stretch itself out; and if he finally managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the others seemed to be set free and would move about painfully.' Gregor could no longer walk, run or move properly. He can only crawl on his legs, and because of this, each reader will get a different perception of this event as visual imagery depends on each individual and his own way of imagination. Tone, in Metamorphosis, allowed the readers to read the given text as either a serious, comical, spectacular, or distressed way, which are all attitudes or moods given off in the story. 

Tone of The Metamorphosis

In addition, tone can shape a piece of literature because it creates a mood. The best example is the reaction that everyone has to Gregor turning into a giant beetle. The reader will see the dispassionate tone throughout the entire story. When Gregor first wakes up to find that he has transformed into a beetle, he takes a moment to wonder if it is only a dream, but quickly ignores that idea and decides to try sleeping a little longer. When this failed, his first thought wasnt ''what has happened to me?' But it was ''what a strenuous career is it that I've chosen!'' Gregor did not even realize that he isnt even a humn being, even though he is staring at his tiny legs and can't seem to get off the bed. Since the story happens from Gregor's point of view, it is told with a very dispassionate and depressing tone, which is an interesting tone because this dispassionate tone leads to a lot of dark humour. Since tone tends to create mood, an example of mood taken from tone is 'One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous vermin.' 

Types of Irony in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, uses a lot of irony, such as situational irony, dramatic irony, and verbal irony. The readers know what is happening with Gregor and what he thinks and feel throughout the story, but his family does not. This leads to several situations where the family acts in ways that don't make sense. The resulting humour is very dark; Gregor finds himself in a sad and confusing situation. Situational irony is found from the start of the story to the finish. The irony in The Metamorphosis starts from the start but readers didn't expect the book to begin with a character transforming into a giant beetle overnight, with no explanation given. The first line of the story starts by, ''One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.' When he woke up, Gregor's reactions continue to be an example of situational irony. He is not horrified and shocked by his new self, he is just worried about being late to work. Now dramatic, is when the readers know something that some of the characters don't, and this relates to the story when his mom comes in to wake him up, ''Gregor, it's quarter to seven. Didn't you want to go somewhere?'' This seems like a normal thing for his mother to ask, kindly trying to ensure he gets up for work. As the audience, the readers know something that Gregors mother doesnt. Gregor has turned into a beetle. If the mother knew this, she wouldn't be treating the day like any other day. Moving to Verbal Irony, Sarcasm was mainly used by Gregor Samsa because it was he who was transformed into a “monstrous vermin”. 'what a strenuous career it is that I've chosen! Travelling day in and day out...'', is another example of sarcasm. This quote is ironic because Gregor actually didn't' choose this career, but was forced to join the company to pay off a large debt that his father owes the boss.


 Kafka uses verbal irony here to show how absorbed Gregor has become in his work. Personification, imagery, Irony and tone played big roles in helping the reader better understand the text and to help allow them to imagine or grasp the idea of what's written in the book, in their own different way. Personification helped the readers understand the story much better as the book is an extended example of personification. The imagery was used to allow the reader to imagine the descriptions given to the readers in the book. Irony allowed for an interesting and humorous feeling and so did tone as it caused moods such as distressed, humorous, sarcastic, melancholic, etc… If these devices, in particular, were not in the book, the readers will have probably misunderstand or not be able to visualize or imagine the events in the story properly, as these descriptions allow the reader to understand or imagine the events of the book in their own way. 

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Personification, Imagery, Irony and Tone In The Novel. (2024, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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