Kafka and his Portrayal of Characters

Powerful Essays
Kafka’s Portrayal of Characters
Franz Kafka, born on July 3, 1883 in Bohemia, in the city of Prague, has been recognized as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, the works of Kafka have since been recognized as symbolizing modern man's distress and distorted alienation in an unintelligible, hostile, or indifferent world. None of Kafka’s novels were printed during his lifetime, and it was only with reluctance that he published a fraction of his shorter fiction. Kafka went even as far as to request that his unprinted manuscripts be destroyed after his death. His friend, Max Brod went against his wishes and published his works, although many were unfinished (Sokel 35).
Kafka came from a middle-class Jewish family and grew up in the shadow of his domineering shopkeeper father, who impressed Kafka the ultimate father figure. The feeling of impotence, even in his rebellion, was a syndrome that became a pervasive theme in his fiction. Kafka did well in the prestigious German high school in Prague and went on to receive a law degree in 1906. He soon found a job at the Assicurizioni Generali Insurance Company in 1907 but soon left, due to the lengthy hours and intolerable conditions. Later in 1908, he began working at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute, where he would work most of the rest of his life. He regarded this job as the essence—both blessing and curse—of his life (Gray 78). He would work most of the rest of his life, although only sporadically after 1917, and in June 1922 he was put on “temporary retirement” with a pension (Gray 81-84). This job, although not great had short hours, and so allowed him time to think and write. In 1911, he was asked by his father to take charge of his brother-in-law Karl Hermann’s asbestos factory, which took up a lot of his time until 1917 and literally almost drove him to suicide (83). Kafka spent half his life after 1917 in sanatoriums and health resorts; his tuberculosis of the lungs finally spreading to the larynx. Throughout his life, Kafka wrote during times he felt frustrated, either by a love, his family, or his sickness (Sokel 133). Kafka’s method of relief from these frustrations was through his writing (133).
Kafka’s coarse relationship with his father dominates his thoughts in life and his works. In the two works, “The Me...

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... his own life, his own views, his own perspectives. He deliberately removes the line between truth and fiction. Tongue in cheek, Kafka used his life as blueprints for his works. In doing so, he has played “one of the strangest and most daring games a writer ever had played”(Pascal 137). By telling of his life as a fable and commenting about his own style, he raised himself to the level of literature.

Bibliography: Brod, Max, Franz Kafka, 2d ed. (1960); Citati, Pietro, Kafka (1990); Flores, Angel, ed., The Kafka Debate (1977); Glatzer, N. N., The Loves of Franz Kafka (1985); Gray, Ronald, ed., Kafka: A Collection of Critical Essays (1962); Hayman, Ronald, Kafka (1982); Heller, Erich, Franz Kafka (1975); Karl, Frederick R., Franz Kafka: Representative Man (1992); Lawson, R. H., Franz Kafka (1987); Pawel, E., The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka (1984); Politzer, Heiny, Franz Kafka: Parable and Paradox (1962); Sokel, Walter H., Franz Kafka (1966); Udoff, Alan, ed., Kafka and the Contemporary Critical Performance (1987
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