Franz Kafka 's The On The Fence Essay

Franz Kafka 's The On The Fence Essay

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Franz Kafka was always on the fence. His indecisiveness regarding his nationality, religion, and stance on war, culminated in a protracted yet futile identity struggle. World War I found him surrounded by civilians who fell neatly into the categories of pacifism and militarism. Kafka was neither, but the decision was made for him when he developed tuberculosis. Consequently, he could neither enjoy the long, happy life he desired nor sacrifice it for his nation. Likewise, Gregor Samsa is in a state of Purgatory in The Metamorphosis. He is neither ambitious, independent human nor lowly, slaving bug, because he never fully dedicated himself to being either. Gregor missed more than his train; he missed his chance to decide the direction of his life. His troubled dreams allude to his internal struggle with indecision, the consequences of which will be explored in this essay. They include: loss of control regarding his own fate, the unattainability his goals, watching others torn between the same goals learn from his indecision, dying without realizing which option he should have pursued, and replacement by a more decisive individual.

Gregor’s new life is now controlled by others. His room serves as a microcosm for his life, which he could once control but missed his chance to do. He cannot not decide between an empty room, which would “let him crawl around unimpeded in any direction,” and “the good influence the furniture had on his condition.” When Gregor finally makes up his mind, he is weak and ineffectual, hurrying “backwards to the far end of the couch” when his mother comes in to remove more furniture. Gregor is too afraid to disconvenience his family to pursue his own goals and ambitions. He downplays his needs instead of fulf...


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...ation seem even more shocking than it was,” knowing that no one else would “dare enter a room dominated by Gregor crawling about the bare walls by himself;” she could thus replace Gregor as a more determined provider of the family.

Franz Kafka’s emotional state at the time this novella was written alludes to a the deeper meaning of the story. The Metamorphosis was for him an extrapolation of his life ‘on the fence,’ to explore the consequences of his failure to decide. Was he Jewish or gentile? German or Czech? Militarist or pacifist? His enemy was neither the Axis, not the Allies; it was himself. He could not figure out which label to adopt, which belief to subscribe to, who to be. Kafka’s development of tuberculosis 2 years later was his fulfillment of his own prophecy. He incurred the same fate he bestowed upon Gregor for failing to decide. Kafka became a bug.

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