Franz Kafka 2 Essay, Research Paper
Franz Kafka did not exactly live a king’s life. His life was full of frustration and confusion. That is probably the main reason for his twisted stories. He began life in Prague on July 3, 1883. He was the oldest of six children. Kafka had three surviving sisters; Valli, Elli, and Ottla; as well as two brothers; Heinrich and George; who died in infancy. He was 6 feet tall, weighed between 140 and 100 lbs. (fluctuated due to illness), had gray-blue eyes, and had black hair (Kafka 1). He lived with his mother, Julie, and father, Hermann, although he was raised by governesses, which was normal among the middle and upper classes. Hermann Kafka was a self made middle class Jewish merchant who raised his children in the hopes of assimilating them into the mainstream society of the Austro – Hungarian empire (Biography of Franz Kafka 1). “Hermann Kafka, the son of a butcher, was a strong, energetic, and domineering man who established a successful wholesale haberdashery warehouse in Prague (Biography 1). His relationship with his father left something to be desired. That something was love. Hermann Kafka was disappointed in his son; he was always hoping his son would come out better and stronger than he did. This was one of the main sources for Franz’s frustration and confusion.
Franz was surprisingly well learned. He attended German grammar school and then the German Gymnasium. Kafka then finished his Doctorate of Law in Prague at Charles Ferdinand University. He started off studying chemistry, then switched to law two weeks later. He tried German Literature the next semester, then went back to law, which he said he picked so it wouldn’t interfere with his mental life (Kafka 2). Yet he still seemed unsatisfied with his school system. “Education, or ‘German Literature’ – may it roast in hell,” he once said in a letter in 1902 (Kafka 1). He did well in school, however, taking classes like Latin, Greek, and History. He got his first job at the Assicurizioni Generali Insurance Company but quit because of lengthy hours and unfit conditions. He then worked at the Worker’s Accident Insurance company for most of his working life. His job there provided him with a steady income and the regular office hours he had were perfect because he could dedicate his evenings to writing. He liked to write at night, and often burned the midnight oil until daylight. This life that he had grown accustomed to was suddenly interrupted by his father. “In 1911 this state of affairs was shattered when his father wanted him to take charge of his brother-in-law Karl Hermann’s asbestos factory, which took up a lot of his time until 1917 (when it was shut down) and literally almost drove him to suicide” (Kafka 2).
Franz began writing while he was a university student and was first published in 1909. It wasn’t until 1912, at the age of 29, however, that he made his literary breakthrough and discovered his own unique style of writing. Kafka learned Czech language and literature, but all of his writings were done in German. He was extremely discontented with his early work, most of which was destroyed before ever being published. “The Judgement,” which was written on the night of September 22 – 23, 1912, was what Kafka considered his first mature work, and he proudly read it to his family and friends (Kafka 2). He wrote it in his first flush of love for Felice Baur, whom he met on the evening of August 13, 1912 at the home of Max Brod. He would see her on and off until 1917, when Baur broke of the engagement for good. Part of the reason was because he allegedly fathered a son with Felice’s friend, Grete Bloch. Although he proposed to her twice, Kafka was deathly afraid of making a commitment to a woman. “The Judgement” was dedicated to her. Brod continuously pestered Franz to publish more of his work, and “The Judgement” appeared in 1913.
“The Metamorphosis”, one of Kafka’s better known works, was published in 1913 by Kurt Wolff Verlag, Franz’s publisher, who had some faith in him (Kafka 3). It is the story of Gregor Samsa, who turns into a bug and is shunned by his family. Gregor’s father kills him inadvertently when an apple he throws at Gregor to drive him away becomes embedded in his back and rots and becomes infected. The Samsa family sees Gregor’s predicament as an affront because they had expected him to support the entire family. They withdraw from him and try to contain the damage, but in the process they begin to change their own life stories as well. (Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis 1). Gregor’s life and personal identity drastically change when he becomes an arthropod. In a psychoanalytical interpretation, the metamorphosis of Gregor into a bug prevents the imminent rebellion of the son against the father (Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis 2).
“A Hunger Artist,” published in 1924, is one of his lesser known, yet equally strange works. “A Hunger Artist” explains the art of fasting, which is a rapidly dying art. The main character in the book, obviously the hunger artist, left his impresario and hired himself out to a circus. He dreads the onslaught of customers; some stop to watch him; some rush past to see the animals. On his deathbed, it is revealed that there was no honor in his fasting. When he dies, he is insulted in the worst way – he is replaced by a circus panther. This is a story about becoming nothing (Kafka, Franz: A Hunger Artist 1).
There were many other lesser known works by this great author – “The Stoker”, which came out in 1913, and “The Trial”, which he began in 1914 and worked on and off on it until 1916 – just to name a few. Franz Kafka died in a sanitarium near Vienna on June 3, 1924 at the age of 40 years and 11 months with numerous writings under his belt. It’s a shame that such a man with such remarkable writings wanted to destroy his literary creations. If such a calamity did happen, as Kafka had requested on his deathbed, then the world would never know the greatness that such a mind possessed.