Kafkas Truth Essay

This essay has a total of 2515 words and 11 pages.

Kafkas Truth

Catherine Jones
Dr. Shepherd
Lit 2020
05 April, 00
Kafka’s Truth
Despite the intentional ambiguity in his work, Franz Kafka’s stories do contain a few
common thematic threads. Kafka’s 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 Kafka’s 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 family’s 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 Gregor’s 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 Gregor’s
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
away…and 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 didn’t have to hold my hand because of my parents I’d have
given notice long ago, I’d 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 man’s 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 man’s
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 Kafka’s 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 him…but 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 Kafka’s search for truth, each successive guard
may represent a layer, more obscured and impenetrable than the last, of the inner self
that one must come in contact and bypass during an in depth search for true identity.

At last, the Gate symbolizes not only the path to truth, but the threshold which must, in
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