I am (still) reading Metamorphosis(from Kafka) and can't figure out how to parse


Translated as

He lay on his armour-hard back

I suppose the japanese version litteraly looks more like

He lay on his back hard as a nutshell (or is it "on his hard back which looks like a nutshell" ?)

Here is what i don't understand :

  1. How to parse のように ? i know about ように ~ "trying to do something", Aのよう ~ seems/looks like A (exemplification) and the adverbial ように but none of them seems to apply here : am i wrong ?
  2. Does に in 背中を下して横たわり make 下 into an adverb ? If not what's its meaning ? And if so then see 3.
  3. What's the use of を particle here ? Doesn't 下にして横たわり already have the sense of "to lay on his back" without the 背中を part ?

1 Answer 1

  1. The main confusion is that Xのように in this context means "like/as X" rather than anything related to "trying to do".

  2. Xを下にして here means "with X facing down". を indicates that the thing which is facing down is 背中, his back.

Breaking this down, we have:

As hard as a carapace

(his) back, as hard as a carapace

with (his) back, as hard as a carapace, facing down

lying down with his back, as hard as a carapace, facing down

  • It's useful to think of Xを下にして as an adverbial modifier for 横たわる
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 23:10
  • Thanks, but i still don't understand 2 things : 1. Why using に particle ? i thought Xのよう was ok 2. Is "with his back facing down" really adding information since he is already lying down ? Is there a nuance i don't see ?
    – xavier
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 18:57
  • 1
    甲殻のように固い背中を下にして is just a way for the author to bring up that Gregor has a hard shell for a back. Naturally the translation could just have said 彼は横たわった but this isn't the point of good writing. Kafka was not focusing on not adding unneeded information, but was rather using his words for effect.
    – jogloran
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 19:10
  • In this context, に indicates that this is an adverbial (since 甲殻のように modifies 固い).
    – jogloran
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 19:12

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