Kafka’s Truth Catherine Jones Dr. Shepherd Lit 2020 05 April, 00 Kafkas Truth Despite the intentional ambiguity in his work, Franz Kafkas stories do contain a few common thematic threads. Kafkas search for truth, be it about relationships, justice, religion, or human nature is the one interpretation that most critics agree upon. Wilhelm Emrich, a highly acclaimed professor in Berlin, states that Kafkas writings can only be interpreted by accepting the full truth: An assistive and willing readiness for the full truth means the ability to renounce all personal, limited ideas, wishes, and efforts of will and to enter into the fullness of all of that-which-is (50). What he is suggesting is that in order to truly hear what Kafka has to say, one is required to completely disregard the conventional. For example, if one were to read The Metamorphosis, and merely regurgitate the surface details of the story, they would entirely miss the truth behind it.
On the level of relationships, the average reader might be touched by the familys tolerance for the creature, noting that they may not have been able to do the same in a similar situation. He or she may overlook the truth of this story as the realization that even the most beautiful, most tender relations among people are founded on illusions (Emrich, 142). Where was the beloved sister after his presence became burdensome? Did his family not remember his contributions to pay off the debts owed by his father? Of course not, because they became comfortable in their situation and took Gregor for granted. When his family was convinced that no hope remained for his recovery, they moved on with their lives as if Gregor no longer existed. It is difficult to draw from The Metamorphosis, any particular divine theme without first knowing that religion was the whole world to Kafka and that he viewed the total sum of possible experience in terms of religion (Muir, 36). There is a subtle religious inference within Gregors beetle existence where he seeks the way to the unknown nourishment he had been longing for (Emrich, 145).
Is he longing for God, or looking for comfort in His absence? The first meal that Gregor was given consisted of bread and milk. Bread symbolizes that which is sacred in some religions. Catholicism, for example, blesses bread as the body of Christ. In biblical parables, seven loaves were broken to feed a large crowd. When Gregor refused the bread and milk, one might infer that he was rejecting God for putting him in his unthinkable condition. Emrich emphasizes Gregors possible rejection of faith: A modern man in his alienated condition, treated as an insect by his fellows who think only of appearances, frustrated in his longings which he is unable to communicate, swept awayand all the while, an unacknowledged religious victim(36).
Human nature is difficult to describe, especially when one is expected to think outside of that-which-appears-to-be instead of that-which-is. After Gregor realized his metamorphosis, he still attempted to carry out his life as usual, perturbed not because he was a beetle, but because his daily work routine was disrupted. He was in a state of unresolved conflict between work and ego (Emrich, 136), meaning that although he acknowledged his changed condition, though barely, Gregor still believed that it would not hinder his ability to perform his work duties. It seems odd that Gregor, who disliked his job, would not view his metamorphosis as a clear reason to abandon it. Gregor thought to himself on that morning, If I didnt have to hold my hand because of my parents Id have given notice long ago, Id have gone to the chief and told him exactly what I think of him (Kafka, 1123).
It is when this point arises that Kafka illustrated true human nature: man works out of obligation or duty, not because he enjoys it. Gregor is trapped in his insect form, just like he was trapped in his job. Self-realization and fear of death are other issues Kafka deals with in Metamorphosis. Gregor takes a long, deep look at himself and discovers his fearsome counterpart (Fickert, 47). The moment that he accepted being a beetle and started living like one, symbolizes the moment Man first realizes who he really is and the lifestyle he has been living up to that point has been meaningless. It is at this time that one can stop fearing death. His death is a liberating realization.
Gregor says, Yes, to his own death and dies reconciled with himself and with the New World (Emrich, 145). Critics agree that Kafka is imply[ing] that man is hopelessly and inappropriately situated in the world as a beetle would be in a human family (Thorlby, 40). In reference to mans position in life Kafka says, though it is imperative for us to attempt to follow the true way, it is impossible for us to succeed in doing so (Winkler, 46). Kafka wrote Before the Law in December of 1914. It was one of the few works that he considered ready for print (Emrich, 515). Each element of the story represents an aspect of the truth Kafka wishes us to see about justice and about man.
The Law, in the mans eyes, is truth, perception, grace, and happiness. The Man is persistent yet powerless in attaining the benefit of The Law. The Gate is the path to the truth, and The Guard is the obstacle in that path (Zatonsky, 223). According to Kafkas writing, The Law is not a desirable institution that one can turn to for protection of their rights. The Law is no longer a living being, but a petrified institution, no longer timely, only still intimidating (Fischer, 91).
Before the Law demonstrates a lack of timeliness in the justice system when the Man grows old waiting to be permitted to enter into it. The Man has come to know and find Justice [and] is left with nothing, and the Law, for which he has thirsted, is inaccessible to himbut at no time during the parable does the Guard actually say that the Man can not enter (Suchkov, 165). The doorkeeper stands before the Law and not in the Law (Emrich, 325). True to human nature, The Man stopped at the first sign of resistance, and opted to wait for a path of lesser resistance. Perhaps Kafka is suggesting that if The Man wanted to access The Law, he should have been more aggressive.
He should have pushed through the barrier, demanding his rights instead of waiting for them to be handed to him. He also suggests by his ending of the parable: No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it. (Kafka, 128), that if one does not take the initiative to go through the door, then the opportunity will pass and that door will be closed. Fischer rests more fault on the shoulders of The Guard, saying that he repels the only one who as an individual requests entry, who is looking for his human rights as an individual..individualism has become impotent (91).
Kafka uses the gatekeeper to exaggerate the strength of world evil [in this case, the justice system] and portray it as something indestructible and invincible (Suchkov, 164). In the story, the gatekeeper says, from hall to hall there is one door-keeper after another, each more powerful than the last (Kafka, 128). In reference to Kafkas search for truth, each su …