Existentialism in Kafka Essay

Existentialism is the idea that world has no significance or intent. and that this is something adult male must come to footings with through his life until he faces decease. The chase of significance is a prevailing subject in the work of Franz Kafka. particularly so in his parable “Before the Law. ” in which a adult male refuses to confront. or possibly merely does non or will ne’er recognize. the fact that world is nonmeaningful.

The cardinal claim of existential philosophy is Jean-Paul Sartre’s proposition that “existence precedes essence”- that what defines person is the their being. their consciousness. and non their nature- the theory that life is non ruled by some all-knowing metaphysical being or force. but instead. by the person. Man defines himself. therefore. adult male is responsible for himself in all things. In Kafka’s “Before the Law” the character K is told a narrative by a priest. the narrative of a adult male who arrives at a room access to “the Law” seeking entryway. yet is denied by the guard at that place.

“The adult male. on contemplation. asks if he will be allowed. so to come in subsequently. ” and the guard answers. “’It is possible’… ‘But non at this moment’” ( Kafka 175 ) . The adult male is puzzled. but determined in his pursuit. The doorkeeper supplies him with a stool and the adult male settles in to wait. However. he is continually denied entryway by the guard twelvemonth after twelvemonth. despite giving up all of his secular ownerships ; he ends up passing the entireness of his life waiting. The gatekeeper delaies every bit good. allowing the adult male to go on waiting indefinitely.

As the adult male lies deceasing. he wonders why it is that he was the lone individual seeking “the Law” . The gatekeeper tells the adult male that the gate he guards was merely meant for him and since he is deceasing. he. the gatekeeper is traveling to shut it. K is “strongly attracted to the story” and returns to prosecute the priest in an analytical statement about the significance of the narrative ( Kafka176 ) . “Before the Law” is. at its bosom. an fable of every man’s hunt for a agencies through which to grok his being.

The gatekeeper and the jurisprudence in this parable are symbolic of the inquiries adult male faces in this life that he finds that he himself can non reply and his interior conflict to understand himself. The gatekeeper being. “’only the lowest doorkeeper’ . ” intimations toward man’s battle to closely cognize himself. for. “’keepers stand at every door. one more powerful than the other. Even the tierce of these has an facet that even [ the gatekeeper ] can non bear to look at’” ( Kafka 175 ) . This is played upon farther. when the countryman loses focal point and. “forgets about the other doorkeepers… [ the one before him ] the lone barrier between himself and the Law” ( Kafka 175 ) .

He becomes about individual minded and obsessional. seeing merely a remarkable way to the Law. reflecting the man’s deficiency of position as he grows weary of “the imaginary” and fails to recognize that. possibly. Kafka reflects. “the truth that lies closet… [ is ] that you are crushing your caput against the wall of a windowless and doorless cell. ” when trying to be self examine oneself and that one will ever hit a metaphorical wall when trying to cognize oneself. for it is a fragment of the human status that is ineluctable ( Kafka 262 ) .

Whether adult male inquiries faith or a higher power or his intent in life- the Law represents the replies that he believes must be. the gateway to the significance of truth and cognition. while the gatekeeper is a manifestation of his ain weaknesss that prevent him from recognizing that possibly there is no cosmopolitan truth. no reply to these inquiries.

The Law is sought by all. and when the adult male in the tale inquiries the gatekeeper as to why. “’that in all these twelvemonth no 1 has come seeking entree but [ him ] ’ . ” the usher replies that. “’No one but you could derive admittance through this door. since this door was intended merely for you. ” this duologue echoes the individualism of it all and the solitariness of self-contemplation ( Kafka 176 ) . It highlights the battle of adult male as an person as he attempts to understand himself. In this manner. “Before the Law” is a message about “inner” life as opposed to “exterior” life.

Kafka highlights the internal battle of adult male. the human status and man’s battle to oppose it. The adult male from the countryside in this narrative is seeking. as all work forces search. for a ground. a “law. ” perchance. to move as a usher in a life in which there is none. In this manner. there is an absurdness to the narrative in an allegorical sense- for as adult male seeks a guiding manus to take him through the inanity that is the human status. he will detect that the way to apprehension is blocked merely by his ain head and is therefore an obstruction of his ain devising.

Finding out that the gate that the keeper guards is nonexistent and merely a illusion of his ain devising and a battle of the person. something that merely the he himself can get the better of for each conflict to detect oneself is alone to the person. a personal jurisprudence. The characters of K and the priest represent the two colliding sides within themselves ; the priest being the rational side that dictates there must be a significance to the narrative. coming up with multiple readings ; while K acts against this. demanding more and ne’er satisfied with the replies given.

K. in this parable and all similar. appears to be a contemplation of an inquisitorial side of Kafka himself. K is seeking understanding of himself in the existence. but he is faced with irrational frights and he develops a certain brooding anxiousness as he is faced with the force per unit areas placed upon adult male by the experiential. As stated antecedently. adult male defines himself. and accordingly adult male is responsible for himself in all things- a duty that can develop an anxiousness in adult male as he comes to recognize that he is entirely in his battle.

Kafka has proven to be an dying adult male vicariously through his old plants and in life. and this is reflected in the oppugning character of K. who is coming to footings with his ain realisations of the “law” and its significance in the priest’s allegorical narrative. Kafka discusses his ain experience with soul-searching an journal entry written on January 19. 1922: “ [ Introspection ] will endure no thought to drop tranquilly to rest but must prosecute each one into consciousness. merely itself to go an thought. in bend to be pursued by renewed introspection” ( Kafka 262 ) .

Kafka positions self-contemplation as something that is about agonizing to the head. something that plagues him endlessly. This way of self-contemplation resonates with Kafka’s account of what he calls the “true manner. ” which. “goes over rope which is non stretched at any great tallness but merely above the land. ” and in this manner it appears to. “be more designed to do people stumble than to be walked upon” ( Kafka 236 ) .

K appears to be merely as affected by the narrative as Kafka is by the impression of self analysis- as is the adult male within the parable itself. who is importunate in his inquiring of the gatekeeper- endlessly oppugning the priest and disputing him even when sensible and credible responses are given ; he merely can non accept the narrative for what it is. and is exhaustively trapped within his head. No simple account will do. for adult male must understand himself why he seeks the Law and what he has to derive.

The narrative of K and the priest besides represent a truth within Kafka for they are both portion of him- for. “In [ him ] . by [ himself ] . without human relationship. there are no seeable prevarications. ” harmonizing to Kafka and through which the duologue between the characters of K and the priest additions a new significance ( Kafka 259 ) . By the terminal of the 2nd section of “Before the Law” K declares the jurisprudence nonexistent- an highly close measure to the theory of existential philosophy which is suggested within the story- a statement made by Kafka himself. and at this same minute the reader comes to recognize the fable behind the short narrative of the adult male from the countryside. the gatekeeper. and the Law.

The “law” can besides be interpreted in a more actual sense. non merely stand foring significance. that kind of inaccessible end. but besides. analogously. the construction within society. The adult male made systems of academe. jurisprudence. authorities. and politics- which are meant to specify constructs such as truth and cognition. and saloon those deemed unworthy by society.

The trouble in obtaining the “law” is mirrored in the trouble of accessing these groups and in the manner that all duty in respects to being granted entryway to these cabals remainders on the shoulders of the person. This 2nd intending merely works to stress the undertone that the jurisprudence is merely meant for “special people. ” and is something that 1 must endeavor toward with an unfastened head or be taunted by when unable to make it.

The narrative within “Before the Law” is of a adult male who. “ can non come to footings with his life while he is alive. ” and therefore. “dead [ within ] his ain life-time. ” as Kafka weaves a narrative within a narrative in order to analyze the introverted and its experiential qualities ( Kafka 262 ) . He views the human battle to come to footings with oneself and exhaustively dissects it. coming to the decision that all work forces must confront their interior egos and whether or non they realize what limits them from making so before decease is a pick of their ain for it is their conflict to confront entirely.


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