Glacier as a metaphor for change and transformation in fiction


Glaciers are massive, slow-moving bodies of ice, often found in mountainous regions. They are a result of years and years of accumulation and compression of snow, and their slow movement is a constant reminder of the changing world around us. In literature, glaciers are often used as a metaphor for change and transformation, not just in the physical sense, but also in the emotional and psychological sense.

One of the most famous examples of a glacier as a metaphor for change and transformation can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. In the novel, the character of Jay Gatsby is described as a man who has reinvented himself, much like how a glacier constantly transforms and reshapes itself over time. Gatsby’s origins are mysterious, and throughout the novel, the reader sees him adapt and change in order to fit into the upper echelons of society. Just like a glacier, Gatsby’s transformation is slow and gradual, but it ultimately leads to his downfall.

Similarly, in Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, the character of Marianne Dashwood is compared to a glacier by her sister, Elinor. Elinor remarks, “Marianne resembles one of those antediluvian beings which are sometimes found embedded in the earth, in a perfect state of preservation.” This comparison to a glacier is a commentary on Marianne’s evolution throughout the novel. At the beginning, she is impulsive and full of emotion, but by the end, she learns to control her feelings and becomes a more mature and practical person.

In contemporary literature, glaciers are still being used as a metaphor for change and transformation. In Markus Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief, the character of Hans Hubermann refers to the Nazi regime as a glacier, saying, “It’s like a glacier, Herr Hubermann, knocking you off your feet. But standing up again is still an option.” This analogy is a powerful way to convey the slow and inevitable change that the characters in the novel are experiencing under the oppressive rule of the Nazis.

The use of glaciers as a metaphor for change and transformation is not limited to just novels. In poetry, they have also been used to evoke powerful emotions and convey profound ideas. In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker compares the diverging paths in the woods to a glacier splitting apart. The paths are both different, but they ultimately lead to the same destination, much like how change and transformation can take different forms but ultimately lead to growth and development.

Moreover, the use of glaciers as a metaphor for change and transformation is not restricted to just Western literature. In Japanese literature, the concept of “mono no aware” (the pathos of things) often incorporates natural elements, such as glaciers, to depict the transient nature of life and the inevitability of change.

In conclusion, the use of glaciers as a metaphor for change and transformation in literature is highly symbolic and evocative. It can be used to convey a wide range of ideas, from personal growth and development to societal and political change. Just like how a glacier transforms and reshapes its surroundings, characters in literature also undergo similar transformations, highlighting the ever-changing nature of the world we live in. Whether it is a classic novel, contemporary literature, or even poetry, the metaphorical use of glaciers in literature is a powerful tool to illustrate the complex and constant nature of change and transformation.