Metamorphosis: Humans and Animals

  • Timothy C. Baker
Part of the The Palgrave Gothic Series book series (PAGO)


In Shire, a brief collection combining fiction and memoir, Ali Smith offers several different combinations of the human, the natural, and the book. In ‘The Beholder’ the recently bereaved narrator notices a spot on her chest that she can only describe as ‘woody, dark browny greeny, sort-of circular, ridged a bit like bark’.1 This spot, which initially defies clear linguistic categorisation, soon develops into a rose bush, specifically the David Austin variety Young Lycidas, named after Milton’s elegy. Milton, the narrator explains, deserved to have a rose named after him because ‘he was a great maker-up of words’, notably ‘gloom’ and ‘lovelorn’ (27). The narrator’s partial metamorphosis allows her to express or even embody not only the emotions she has repressed after her bereavement, but the very language necessary for them. While she can only describe her myriad troubles as ‘the usual’, the very unusual growth in her chest ultimately allows her to engage with the world, as the rose petals are spread across the city by the wind (11). As in Smith’s earlier novel Girl Meets Boy and Luke Sutherland’s Venus as a Boy, both of which are couched in the language of myth and fairy tales, physical transformation is not only liberating, but allows for the revelation of the protagonists’ inner identities and ultimately a sharing of individual experience.


Human Form Fairy Tale Previous Chapter Binary Opposition Rose Petal 
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Copyright information

© Timothy C. Baker 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK

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