The word metamorphosis derives from the Greek (or Latin) word metamorphoun, which essentially means to transform.
In nature, many creatures transform from one entity to another in their lifetime. Caterpillars turn to butterflies; tadpoles morph into frogs; locusts can turn from solitary to gregarious (changing colour in the process) and sea urchins shift from larvae to spiky crawlers by essentially devouring themselves.
But, perhaps the most metamorphic of all Earth’s creatures has to be humans. Our personalities can radically shift and change overtime depending on the world around us: things we see, do, hear and experience. The only difference is, we can actually remember those former versions of ourselves and occasionally, regret them if when we know there’s no turning back.
While you ponder that thought, here are three must read stories about metamorphosis…
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Of course, the name pretty much says it all. This tragic tale is based around a man who wakes up to find out he’s turned into a giant beetle. The story begins after the transformation has taken place and Kafka offers no explanation as to how or why this has happened. It largely focuses on the trials and tribulations of family life when you’ve been turned into a giant beetle overnight and while the ending may be tragic, the story is profound and really makes you think about the everyday things that we as humans take for granted.
Call of the Wild by Jack London
This literary classic offers more of a spiritual metamorphosis than an obvious physical transformation. Buck, the flabby, molly coddled house dog is ripped away from his family home and overtime changes from a docile domestic pet into the feared leader of a pack of wolves in the Alaskan wilderness. During the closing paragraphs, London suggests that a further transformation takes place as Buck ends up becoming the subject of local legend, therefore, acquiring a form of immortality.
The Breast by Philip Roth
Crude, crass, revealing and totally out there, Philip Roth’s tale of a man turning into a giant breast (almost overnight) is anything but conventional. The tale follows literary professor David Kepesh as he comes to terms with being a 155 pound human breast. Part of him wants to give into his newfound bodily desires, while another part of him wants to remain rational – and it’s this internal struggle that seriously affects his relationship with those closest to him. A bizarre literary gem!
Metamorphosis is a subject that is intriguing as it is broad and these stories all touch on the subject of change perfectly.
Do you have a favourite story of metamorphosis? Please do leave a comment.