Friday, September 27, 2013

The Judgment and The Stoker from the book The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

In addition to The Metamorphosis, the collection of short stories by Franz Kafka includes The Judgment and The Stoker.  I am going to try to give a brief review of each of these stories.

The Judgment is another story about a father and son.  Georg Bendemann is a young businessman who has done quite successfully for himself.  He has recently become engaged and is debating within himself whether he should inform a friend, who is living in another country, of his impending marriage.  This friend has not fared well in his career or in relationships.  Georg wonders if news of his own good fortune would not cause his friend more grief.

When he finishes his letter he enters into the room where his invalid father is staying.  It is time to help his father to bed.  As he assists his dad to his bed, he informs him of the letter to his friend.  The father does not recognize the name of the man.  Georg spends some time reminding him of who he is.

As he finishes tucking him into bed, his father suddenly sits up and blazes out all sorts of vile accusations towards his son.  He accuses Georg of cheating his friend and causing his poverty.  He makes nasty (and graphic) insinuations about his fiancee.

Georg listens to all of this incredulously.  He feebly tries to defend himself but he is no match for his father's vitriol.  One accusation after another rolls off his father's tongue.  In the end his father pronounces judgment.  Georg will receive the death penalty by drowning.

As soon as the judgment is made, Georg feels himself propelled out of the room, across the street and over the bridge where he hangs on weakly.  He murmurs, "Dear parents, I have always loved you," and lets go.

This raises all sorts of questions in the reader's mind.  At least my mind.  Maybe some would dismiss it with a shrug  ("that was a queer little story...what's for lunch?").

At first one thinks the father is crazy.  But if so, why is Georg so helpless?  Why does he carry out his father's sentence?  Was his father speaking the truth after all?  Was Georg's conscience smitten while listening to his father?

Or is there another reason?  Regardless of the reality of the situation, is Georg's father such a dominating force in his life that he surrenders to anything his father demands?

The next story, The Stoker, is about a young man, Karl Rossmann, who is about to disembark from a ship that has sailed from Germany to America.  The reason he is on the ship is stated in the first paragraph. Karl has gotten one of his family's housemaids pregnant and his parents have shipped him off because they didn't want to pay child support.

They sent him off with nothing but enough money for the fare and a suitcase.  He is expected to find work and maybe an uncle who lives in New York.

Before leaving the ship, however, he becomes involved in a situation that has nothing to do with him.  The stoker of the ship has become disgruntled with his job.  In fact he believes he has been cheated of his pay and that another ship mate is back-stabbing him to get his position.  Karl listens to the man's story and encourages him to take his complaint to the captain.

Karl accompanies the man through the whole ordeal- one that doesn't end in the stoker's favor. As Karl tries to explain the stoker's position to the captain, a crowd of ship workers cram themselves into the Captain's cabin, including the "back-stabber".  Everyone is shouting and talking at once.  In the middle of all the hullaballoo Karl's uncle-who happens to be a highly successful politician- enters the room.   He collars Karl and escorts him off the ship.

On their way out of the ship, we learn through the third person narrator that Karl, who is only sixteen, was actually sexually abused by the house maid.  Learning this fact, causes the reader to completely rethink the entire story.

It seems Kafka's intention was to present Karl as a cad who impregnated a helpless house servant and his parents as people who had spoiled and indulged their son and are trying to protect from the responsibility of his selfish actions. With a flip of the wrist, Kafka shows us the face of the card to  reveal that it is Karl who was  the helpless victim and also abandoned.  The stoker's saga seems to have been inserted as a red herring in order to increase the effect of the "twist".

There seems to be an underlying theme in all the stories so far reviewed.  A son who is not loved by his family, especially his parents, and particularly his father.  


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    1. Thanks, Sharmin. I will definitely visit you site. Have a great day!


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