Franz Kafka: "Ein Landarzt"
For: Mrs. Dehler, English AP 12
An author may use various styles and technique as a way of interesting a reader. Franz Kafka's most evident technique is his hero's tragic flaw when it comes to a choice between satisfaction vs. their professional duty. Kafka's portrayal of his life through his piece can also be considered as a technique that not only personalizes, but also adds realism to his work. Another characteristic of Kafka's work is his utilization of the setting in showing a male orientated society in his works and how the male world dominates the female world. Kafka wires these stories in a stream of consciousness style short story and his exclusive use of repetition and hyperbole and the syntax helps structure a story that takes the reader to an emotional and imaginative dimension making up for its irrational sense. All of these factors combined together with Kafka's intriguing personal life helps to make "The Country Doctor" the best short story.
In many ways Kafka's own characters represent the various entities that make up Kafka's personality. As a critic put it, "He clings to the idea of being a helper, wards off resignation, is ready to sacrifice his private life for his professional ethics, and is forced in the most cruel way to recognize the vanity of his effort" (Hughes 350). This doctor represents Kafka in many ways. In both the doctor's life as well as in Kafka's, their tragic flaw was their love of their professional life that led them to loose out on a lot of things they later came to realize as precious. In his pursuit of a professional career, Kafka stood up his beloved Felicia more than twice at the altar and broke his engagement with her more than twice. Kafka was broken with grief, as Brod relates, after seeing Felice to the train for the last time:
His face was pale, hard, and severe. But suddenly he began to weep. I shall never forget that scene, one of the most terrible I have ever witnessed Kafka had come straight to me in my office, at the busiest time of day, and sat next to my desk in the armchair that stood there for petitioners, pensioners and people under prosecution. And here he wept, asking with sobs: "Isn't it terrible that this sort of thing has to happen?" The tears were running down his cheeks. I have never seen him, except on this occasion, distraught and without composure. The decision has been a deliberate choice: it was either marriage or writing, although the same choice had to be faced later more than once, with other women (Gray 140).
Very much like the doctor, Kafka's passion for his profession took his dignity away. He could not be saved by what he loved nor pursue what he loved. He was in much way "betrayed" like the doctor was and at the end of his journey, he was a beaten man. The doctor and his emotions allude directly to Kafka and his relationship with Felice as well as the other women he has close relations with. When speaking on Felice in a letter to her father, he explains why he send her back and he stated, "My job is unbearable to me because it conflicts with my only desire and my only calling, which is literature" (Carrouges 57). From the stand point of view, the story seems to be very much paralleled after Kafka's life. The autobiographical "I" also adds this impression that Kafka maybe attempting to speak about his life though his works as he did with this doctor, bits and pieces of himself being represented through his heroes. The constant 1st person point of view also supports this idea that it is the his voice reaching out behind the stories making his stories more lively with his own life and thus making it stand out from the other stories. Kafka's work can be seen as a didactic piece on the values of love and to pursue your passion and not sacrifice your happiness for something you might regret. Tough choices do exist but you must make the decision that your heart tells you. The active reconstruction of the story by Kafka using his own life as an example helps makes this story more unique from the rest of the authors. His story once compared and studied together with his biography helps open new doors of thinking and possibilities making this story a living' with numerous possible interpretations on its meanings. This offers a unique look into the characters as well as into the author itself. The moral lesion that is silently being conveyed to the reader also helps make this story an effective short story. All of these factors also contribute to making Kafka's work the best short story.
Many critics as well as feminists always argue that during Kafka's times, the traditional roles of men and women were different. The universes of these characters were male oriented and the male supremacy was a common theme. Some have even said that Kafka's world is male while the women are seen as purely instrumental and where the women are as nothing more than pawns in the conflicts of the male world. "The essential power struggles in Kafka's texts are between the males nowhere in Kafka does women speak for herself Because it is the male heroes who organize the text's way of seeing, the angle of vision in Kafka's texts is necessarily andocentric i.e., male centered" (Lazar and Gottesman 351). Many also take offense at how males control women as property and the violent imagery that was presented when the groom proceeded to violate Rose. The irony many people do not realize is that Kafka; contrary to popular beliefs was really influenced by females. Women may not speak in some of Kafka's works, but it is the women that helps drive the doctor to the patient as soon as possible and cure his fast and then attempt to come home quicker to save the women, which he failed. In Kafka's life as well, it was women that influenced and drove a large part of him. Much of his sorrows were due to women and much of his hobbies in brothels were with women as well. The doctor in the story did try to defend Rose from the groom but duty called so he left Rose by herself with the groom but even when he is far from Rose, he is constantly reminded of Rose while attending his patient. When the doctor sees the wound, he is reminded to Rose, possibly representing a conscience of guilt in the doctor regarding Rose that he did not know existed in his before. Rose-red wound, Rose-read pink worms and others symbolically produces an allusion back to at whose hands the good doctor left Rose to. Kafka also felt like this, he was constantly reminded of the companion he did not have and sought comfort in many short terms relationships, mainly out of shame and fear, and like the doctor, rank away as soon as a relationship that can grow surfaces. Kafka was thus a deprived soul leading to his endeavors with prostitutes as well. The interesting paradox is that Kafka is introducing a revolutionary idea of feminism into his male oriented novel.
However, some of his credits are right in the fact that it may be a bit too much into the world of males but according to Max Brod, Kafka possessed some "unsatisfied feelings as far as the world of women were concerned" (Carroughes 36). However, you must also take into account the setting of the times, when the society itself was grasped into the male supremacy ideology so Kafka's story was based upon his experiences and the influences of his world, making it seem to us that his characters are in a world of men. Kafka's universe maybe male but his mind was always longing for a female presence. Kafka's life has amazing parallelism to his story, to the doctor and his longing for Rose. The story represents Kafka's emotional need and his emotions crying out to the reader through his characters. This sets the story apart as the characters themselves are going through Kafka's experiences but at the same time sending a subtle messages and themes of desperation, misery, and hopelessness to the reader, setting this story apart from the other short stories.
One unique quality of Kafka's work is that throughout the whole story, Kafka takes his reader into this highly energized emotional and imaginative dimension where reality fades and the irrational settles in. This style of stream of consciousness is different from the other authors because not only does it reveal what the doctor is thinking, it also is saying what is happening at the same time. The pace of this story and how quickly things develop cannot be explained as anything more than dreamlike. Sometimes "the dream reveals the reality" (Hamalian 12). The conflict that the doctor is facing is highly representative of Kafka's life and once you consider this as a dream, what is stated above is correct. Within this story itself, it contains constant shifts from reality to fantasy. The almost ghostlike horses also contain symbolism to things in this life that will help you to tear down things quickly, but one that you try to build back up; it is going to be extremely difficult. Kafka through his story is connecting with the audience on a three-dimension basis emotionally, psychologically and physically (biographically reflection in his story). This is the basis for his label for being called a psychoanalytical Kafka. Kafka dives into the perceptions of reality itself and the minds eye into the story. All of these also help create this as the best short story.
The Country Doctor is remarkable among Kafka's stories for its vividly nightmarish quality. It is hard to comprehend this story to a full extent because a dream is what the dreamer makes of it. This uniqueness offers a wide opportunity for interpretation and mediation regarding the story that others often lack. "Despite the dreamlike quality, there is something more systematic in the tradition of dialectical philosophizing" (Gray 139). The wonderful juxtaposition opposites such as love and lust, charitable action and savage impulse and others offer variety of the story based on his own personal life adds raw emotions, truth and an insight into the author itself, making this story stand out from the rest of the story. All of these factors helps to form a unimaginable journey through various emotions, mind of the characters and the history of the author that forms the story "The Country Doctor" and it is this journey that makes this story the best short story above all the others.
Gray, Ronald. Franz Kafka. London: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
Carrouges, Michel. Kafka versus Kafka. Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1968.
Hamalian, Leo. Introduction. Franz Kafka: A Collection of Criticism. Ed. Leo Hamalian. New York: McGraw, 1981.
Hughes, Kenneth. "The Country Doctor and Ideology." Discovering Literature. Ed. Hans P. Goth and Gabriele L. Rico. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1993.
Lazar, Moshe and Gottesman, Ronaldo. "Gender and Power in Kafka." Discovering Literature. Ed. Hans P. Goth and Gabriele L. Rico. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1993.
Kafka, Franz. "The Country Doctor." Discovering Literature. Ed. Hans P. Goth and Gabriele L. Rico. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1993.