Comparison Of Kafkas “metamorphosis” And Dalis “the Metamorphosis Of

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Comparison of Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' and Dali's 'The Metamorphosis of Narcissus'The painting that I chose to compare to the novel Metamorphosis, byFranz Kafka, was painted in 1937 by Salvatore Dali. Dali is an establishedSurrealist painter, who, like Kafka, explored his own psyche and dreams in hiswork. Dali invented a process, called the 'paranoiac critical method', which isused in this painting, to assist his creative process. As Dali described it, his aim in painting was 'to materialize the images of concrete irrationalitywith the most imperialistic fury of order that the world ofimagination and of concrete irrationality may be as objectively evident..asthat of the exterior world of phenomenal reality.'1The rich landscape, seems to be limitless in detail. Dali renderedevery detail of this landscape with precise accuracy, striving to make hispaintings as realistic as possible.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young youth, who fell inlove with his own reflection, and then drowned while trying to embrace himself. His body was never recovered, but a flower, which was named after him was. Theleft side of this painting shows the kneeling Narcissus, outlined by the craggyrocks of what could only be Cape Creus's. On the right side of the painting, thescene has morphed into a more idyllic and classical scene, in which thekneeling Narcissus has become the statue of a hand, holding a cracked egg, fromwhich emerges The Narcissus flower. This painting reminded me of the first chapter of Metamorphosis, wherethe main character, Gregor Samsa, first realizes that he is confronted with aludicrous fate in the form of a gigantic insect. In both Kafka's and Dali'swork, I noticed that they both implement a certain 'receding' technique

Dalitends to put an object (In this case, Narcissus) In the foreground, and thebackground of the painting tends to be very crisp and detailed, yet unimportant, compared to Narcissus. I feel the same way about Gregor, I see Kafka writingthis story with mainly Gregor in mind, as the main character and narrator. Kafka puts this puzzled victim in the story as a clerk, yet that element of thestory tends to receded in to the plot of the story. In a way, this techniqueseems to intensify the scene, which later leads up to Gregor's rejection by hisfamily, and himself. Another similarity between this scene and the painting, is the factthat main 'character's' in the foreground, do not move, they only grow. Gregordid not get out of bed the first morning of his metamorphosis, yet he did change. In both halves of Dali's painting, Narcissus's position does not move, yet healso grows. What is interesting about both works is that they can both beperceived differently each time I see them.

When I first read Metamorphosis, Idid not realize that Gregor was laying motionless in bed, until a secondreading. I had a similar experience with Dali's 'The Metamorphosis ofNarcissus'. I first saw this painting when I was on vacation in London fouryears ago, at a Dali art exhibit. My first impression of this was simply a mankneeling down in the water, who in the other half of the painting had a flowergrowing out of his skull, and there were people living around this huge 'statue'.My second viewing of this painting, in the book Dali, by Robert Descharnes, allowed me to notice many more things. On the left panel of the painting, Narcissus looks more human, with long flowing hair, and a solid body. On the right panel, Narcissus can be viewed as either a human figure, ora hand growing out of the soil, which is grasping a blossoming egg.

I also nownotice that the 'civilization' in the background of the painting has seemed tohave advanced during Narcissus'es metamorphosis. On the left, Narcissus kneel'salone in the water, only surrounded by wilderness, as the painting progressesnarratively from the left side to the right side, civilization seems to haveadvanced, human beings are present, there is a house at the base of the mountainin the distance, a statue in a courtyard, and there is a cow grazing in thefield. With this description of the painting, the reader can hopefully graspthe most important similarity between both Kafka's and Dali's work, both objects, or persons, (Gregor and Narcissus) however you perceive them, go unnoticed, yetlife continues to go on around them. Both Gregor and Narcissus, in my opinion, are important because the are the center of attention of each piece of work, yetthe world around them seems to go on without them, and improve. Both of these works insist that the audience take time to interpret andunderstand them. This is perhaps one of the most important reasons for myselection of these two works.

Both stimulate controversy in theirinterpretations, and make the audience look deeply to find what they believe tobe their purpose, or meaning. Franz Kafka and Salvatore Dali were both greatartists of their time, who consequently have both been said to greatlyrevolutionize their field, especially the latter. The difference between them asthinkers only lies in the implementation of their thoughts. Kafka chose to writeabout his thoughts and dreams, and Dali chose to visualize them on canvas. My comparison of Kafka's Metamorphosis and Dali's 'The Metamorphosis ofNarcissus' are important to Surrealism, because they are clearly bothsurrealist works which significantly took surrealism in a new direction. Bothwere completed in the first half of the century, when the modernist movementbegan to progress, and both are symbolic of surrealism because they make theaudience develop their own interpretation of the work.

According to the RandomHouse College Dictionary, Surrealism is a style of art and literature developedprincipally in the 20th century, stressing the subconscious or nonrationalsignificance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chanceeffects.. I find that Kafka's surrealistic style, although descriptive, is moreblunt than Dali's. Dali has an advantage over Kafka in this argument, since theaudience is directly looking at what is in Dali's mind, whereas we mustvisualize on our own what Kafka believes to be true of Gregor. Another advantageof Dali's surrealism is that his color usage allows for a much easier depictionof Dali's mood, as well as the narcissist portrayed. Footnotes:1.) Tansey, Richard G. and Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art Through The Ages, Book2, Tenth Edition; Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996, New York.

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