Sunday, November 25, 2007

Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis & Other Stories Period 5


Members:
Caitlyn H5
Mark D5
Rodney B5
William C5

Monday December 2nd: Finish reading the Foreward and “Description of a Struggle” First blog is due.

Thursday December 6th: Finish reading “Metamorphosis” and second blog is due.

Wednesday December 12th: Finish reading “Wedding Preparations in the Country”, “The Judgement”, “In the Penal Colony”, and “The Village Schoolmaster [The Giant Mole]” and third blog is due.

Tuesday December 18th: Finish reading “Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor”, “The Warden of the Tomb”, “A Country Doctor”, “The Hunter Gracchus”, “The Hunter Gracchus: A Fragment”, “The Great Wall of China”, and “The News of the Building of the Wall: A Fragment.” Final blog is due

40 comments:

Rodney B5 said...

As I began reading Franz Kafka’s “Description of a Struggle”, I noticed his writing to be very different than any other author I have read. He constantly uses many long sentences instead of breaking them off and separating them into smaller sentences. Some stretch into a paragraph of their own which is very interesting. I’d also like to know how everybody feels about his writing style. Kafka also seems to use detail to show the reader more of what is going on. Throughout the story, it seems as if the protagonist, even though in a conversation most of the time with his “acquaintance,” focuses on the environment around him.

In the beginning of “Description of a Struggle” there are a few things that stand out to me and also confuse me. On the first page, the protagonist of the story is approached by a man that he refers to as his “acquaintance.” They begin talking as if they were very good friends even though he states they had just met the night before. “Then I saw my new acquaintance, somewhat disheveled and out of shape, appear at the doorpost of an adjoining room: but I tried to look away for it was no concern of mine. He, however, came toward me and, smiling absent-mindedly at my occupation, said: ‘Excuse me for disturbing you, but until this very moment I’ve been sitting alone with my girl in the room next door. Ever since half-past ten. Lord, what an evening! I know it isn’t right for me to be telling you this, for we hardly know one another. We only met on the stairs this evening and exchange a few words as guests of the same house. And now-but you must forgive me, please-my happiness just cannot be contained, I can’t help it. And since I have no other acquaintance here whom I can trust-’”(Kafka 9) The protagonists’ “acquaintance” comes to him to talk and get advice from.

Why do you guys think the “acquaintance” runs to the protagonist for advice even though they had met only the night before? Also, I’d like to know how you think he felt when this man who he does not know well at all decides to come to him and puts all his trust in him?

Mark D5 said...

Kafka has one very interesting way of telling stories. In "Description of a Struggle" his main character is found sitting alone at a table. As a reader I don't know why he was invited to this party, and why he is sitting all by himself. The confusing style in which Kakfta writes makes me believe that the main character is somewhat insane and most of the story is being told inside of his head. Why didn't his aquintance burst out into rapid conversation the minute the two had left the party? His aquintance seemed so intent on telling him the story of the lady he had been with and when they were finally on the walk nothing was said between the two of them. This makes the narrarator seem very self-conscious thinking of all different ways that his aquintance would be planning to kill him sense they were both alone and nothing was being said.

" -that I began to feel a certain fear. I realized that whether I allowed myself to be stabbed or ran away, my end had come."

As the story proceeds his thoughts become more and more absurd. The wording is beautiful but his thoughts become crazier. He thinks way to hard about things and his thoughts becoming over exaggerated turning his walk with an aquintance into a fight for his life. This is why I believe most of the story isn't happening but being imagined in his head.

William C5 said...

I agree with Rodney's views regarding Franz Kafka's writing style, since I noticed the same things that he pointed out. Kafka's writing style is very unique and different from the literature that I have read, where "Description of a Struggle" does not seem to clarify on who is speaking and what is actually going on. As a result of all the aforementioned elements, I find Kafka's writing very enjoyable, and I would like to hear everyone else's opinions as well.

About the protagonist, I believe that he is an unreliable narrator, misleading readers about his relationship with the acquaintance. In my opinion, they seem to know each other quite well, for the reasons that Rodney mentioned, as well as his constant denial when he thinks to himself that "[he] doesn't love [the man]"(20), yet he continues walking with him regardless, even feeling depressed when thinking about parting ways with him. Another event that signifies the closeness of their relationship is the piggy-back ride. The protagonist is definitely unreliable when he calls this man an "acquaintance", yet he feels comfortable enough to "[leap] onto the shoulders of [the man]"(20), and go as far as to "[dig] [his] fists into his back"(21) to "[urge] him into a trot"(21).

The acquaintance probably seeks the protagonist for advice because he is more than just an acquaintance. Most likely he feels comfortable enough with the protagonist and feels secure when placing all of his trust in him.

Rodney B5 said...

I agree with what you wrote Mark. Before the protagonist and the “acquaintance” went on the walk, the “acquaintance” was very eager to talk but does not say anything once they are alone. And it is true that the silence they share as they walk does cause the protagonist to feel self-conscious and even nervous of being with him.

To answer your question, during the silence we, the readers, get more ideas that are going through his head. He begins to talk and the reader seems to go through his mind and get a better feeling of the protagonist. He talks for awhile, even seeming like he forgets he is walking with somebody else and not alone. “Yet my acquaintance was still behind me. Indeed, he even quickened his steps when he realized that he had fallen in the rear.”(Kafka 12) After he does catch up, he begins to speak about what he would be doing if he were not walking with his acquaintance. “…I wasn’t obliged to go on this walk with him. I could go home alone and no one could stop me. Then, secretly, I could watch my acquaintance pass the entrance to my street. Goodbye, dear acquaintance!”(Kafka 12) Even though he does walk with his “acquaintance,” I do not believe he has any connection with him. He feels indifferent to the feelings he might have towards him and would rather be inside his home.

Even though he may seem to not have much attachment to him, do you guys believe that he grows more attached to him as the story progresses? If so, what and why do you think causes this transaction? If you do not believe he grows attached, why does he not?

Mark D5 said...

" Oh well, memories," said I. " Yes, even remembering in itself is sad, yet how much more its object! Don't let yourself in for things like that, it's not for you and not for me. It only weakens one's present position without strengthening the former one- nothing is more obvious - quite apart from the fact that the former one doesn't need strengthening." (15)

This quotation seems extremely interesting to me. The protagonist's mind has been wondering before this passage and when he spoke these words they jumped out at me and I thought that I couldn't agree more with them. Tell me what you guys think of this passage. Every day people are stuck in their memories, trying to figure out how they could have done something better, differently, or not at all. The way Kafka describes these people is brilliant. They constantly try to strenghten the past which is only making the present weaker.

After thinking about this passage I realized that the protagonist never goes back in time. The reader never reads of his past. Of course, he does go on a memory tangent after explaining how one should never live in the past but that is only to prove his point that he does indeed have memories. I believe that is why it was so hard to feel for and understand the character while first reading this story because he never gives us any backround information on who he is. Who is he? We know he went to a party and we know he works in an office. Other than that the reader is basically being thrown on a rollercoaster into his mind because it is extremely hard to understand a man who tells us that he went for a joy ride on a man that he only knew for one night. That part of the story could not have possibly been real. This is were I am getting my notion that a lot of the story is in his head. There would be no way that his aquintance would let the narrarator jump on top of his and ride him up the Laurenziberg.

William C5 said...

I agree with you, Mark. It's true that Kafka leaves information about the protagonist a mystery, he goes as far as to not even give him a name. What do you think Kafka's purpose is in doing this?

About your theory, I both agree and disagree with it. The things the narrator does and how the characters he interacts with act, are absurd. For instance, why would the "acquaintance" "without further ado"(50), suddenly "[pull] a knife out of his pocket, [open] it thoughtfully"(50) and suddenly "[plunge] it into his left upper arm"(50) for no reason besides the narrator's suggestion of having the acquaintance "kill [him]self"(49)? This fits perfectly into your theory, as this part is most likely one of those events that are possibly not real. However, perhaps the parts that seem unreal are figments of the narrator's imagination, or perhaps he is unreliable and lies about what really occurs between himself and the man during their walk. There are lots of propositions to what really happens during the story, and Kafka probably leaves it up to his readers' interpretations. What do you think, Rodney?

Rodney B5 said...

To talk more about the theme of memories that Mark refers to, I agree with what he wrote. It is very difficult to get a grasp on who this protagonist really is. Through most of the story, it does seem as if we enter his mind and his thoughts. Memory is not something that he shares with the reader. After he is done stating the quote that Mark brought up, his “acquaintance” does not even seem to reply directly at his comments on memory. He seems to be in his own world. Is he talking to himself or are the people around him strictly just ignoring him because he brings up such touchy subjects?

Whether or not the protagonist is in a state of mind where everything he says is in his head, his memory is very much buried in his mind away from the reader to grasp. I agree with his statement about memories and how “It only weakens one's present position without strengthening the former one- nothing is more obvious - quite apart from the fact that the former one doesn't need strengthening." (15) The reason he is hiding this is because, I believe, he feels he needs to be “strong” in his mind. He seems to not like to show and sign of weakness. Compared to Meursault from “The Stranger,” they are very similar in the sense that they are hiding something in order to hide something deeper.

Referring to Will’s questions on the protagonist’s reliability, I believe he is not reliable. His reference to taking a ride on the man’s shoulders seems to be his imagination as Will stated. Even though it is his imagination, he very much believes it is all true. He is in his own little world where he gets what he wants. And by saying that, the death of his acquaintance may be something that he wanted and so created. It may have been another part of his imagination but nonetheless it happened. The acquaintance was keeping him from going into his home and being warm. He kept thinking about leaving him throughout the story but he could not since he did not want to be rude. Now that his acquaintance is dead, he can do what he pleases. What are everybody’s ideas?

William C5 said...

First I'd like to post my opinions regarding Mark's first post since I missed it (sorry :D). I definately agree with you that the narrator definately becomes more absurd in his thought process as the story progresses, since the story is extremely logical and serious in the beginning.

Moving on, you really brought up some interesting ideas, Rodney, when you said that "the death of his acquaintance may be something that he wanted and so created". Your idea made me remember about the ending of the story. Going along with your theory, the narrator might have created the scenario where the acquaintance kills himself out of envy and jelousy regarding the acquaintance's relationship with a woman. The acquaintance rambles and rambles about his affairs with this "Annie", in which the narrator responds to the acquaintance's incessant questioning for advice, "You don't need to be comforted. After all, you're being loved"(48). The acquaintance then responds with "No one loves you ... You're incapable of loving"(49). The narrator has an obvious reason to be jelous of this acquaintance, and seems to become depressed while "[digging] [his] feet into the shadow"(48). This jelousy is further shown, as when the story nears it's completion, the narrator blurts out "I'm engaged"(50), which probably is not true, since he has proved unreliable in what he states, yet he does so with the thought that he needs to prove something. What do you guys think?

Rodney B5 said...
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Rodney B5 said...
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Mark D5 said...

http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a321/greenmarco45/kafka.jpg
I don't know if this photo will work or not but I thought you guys would find this interesting so if you can search the link. This sculpture was influeced by Franz Kafka's "Descprition of a Stuggle". The man is riding on the other man's shoulders but the aquintance doesn't have a head. I thought this an interesting take on the aquintance. What is the aquintance isn't really real at all. This goes along with our theme of the story being all in his head.

" What is it that makes you all behave as though you were real? Are you trying to make me believe I'm unreal, standing here absurdly on the green pavement? You, sky, surely it's a long time since you've been real, and as for you, Ringplatz, you have never been real." (40)

This is a very intense quote in the Fat Man's story consisting of Jerome Faroche yelling at the moon. I tried searching who or what Ringplatz is all I could come up with is that it is a place. That is pretty much it. Do any of you know what Ringplatz is. It has never been real. This was an amazing speech said by Jerome and I feel like it needs to be done justice in my head by me knowiung exactly what he is talking about.

William C5 said...

Wow, an extremely nice find, Mark. The evidence you provided sums up the story in it's entirety, and the quote helps clear up any murky questions left regarding the story. I think I understand the story better now. The "acquaintance" is "given birth" in the beginning of the story when the party takes place, and "dies" at the end when the narrator ceases to think about him any further.

Anyway, about Ringplatz, I could not find anything about it, (him?), either, but again, very nice usage of research.

Rodney B5 said...

Referring to what Will said, I never thought about it as jealousy being his motive to possibly creating his acquaintance’s downfall at the end of the story. I agree with jealousy being a motive but I also believe there are more motives behind him actually staying with him throughout the walk, him letting his imagination roam free, and him being with his acquaintance when he kills himself. It is also hard to pick out where his imagination ends and where reality begins. Because of this, his motives may not be clear.

To Mark’s post, the statue supports the idea behind much of the story being in the protagonist’s imagination. Also that is a very interesting quote. It definitely sheds light on why the acquaintance is there. It is very much like when a kid makes his imaginary friend to be there in time that they need comfort but once they grow up and become in a sense independent their imaginary friend ceases to exist. Great quote and great picture.

William C5 said...

------------------------------------------------------------
Blog 2 Begins

Rodney B5 said...

Starting off the discussion on “The Metamorphosis”, I would like to talk about his writing style in comparison to the last story we read, “Description of a Struggle.” In “Description of a Struggle”, Franz Kafka uses descriptive words and long sentences in order to portray his thoughts. In “The Metamorphosis”, his writing style becomes very simplistic compared to his other writings.

I thought that this story is very interesting. It was like no other story I had read before. My first thoughts on the story were that Gregor was just using his imagination and was not really a bug. This made sense when I looked back at “Description of a Struggle” where imagination was constantly used, possibly even throughout the whole story. Of course, as I read the rest of the story, I realized that it was not in his imagination at all. He was actually transformed into a bug. How did everyone else see his transformation?

William C5 said...

Rodney’s post regarding Franz Kafka’s writing style in “The Metamorphosis” is very accurate. His description of the change in Kafka’s writing style is very well thought out and I agree with his observations.

To answer Rodney’s question, I really enjoyed reading “The Metamorphosis”, and agree that it is unlike anything I have previously read. Gregor’s transformation seemed abstract at first, and I thought that he was imagining or comparing his life to that of being some sort of insect creature. However, just like Rodney, I was saddened to later learn that Gregor really did undergo a metamorphosis and did become bug. I felt really bad for Gregor and his constant struggles with his family. Although his family is at first considerate of Gregor despite what he becomes, they gradually change their emotions of love and care toward him. They are so repulsed by his appearance, and Gregor, still humanly considerate, tries to reduce their suffering. Thus, “In order to spare [his sister] [of looking at him] … [he] one day he carried a sheet on his back to the sofa—it cost him four hours’ labor—and arranged it there in such a way as to hide him completely, so that even if she were to bend down she could not see him. Had she considered the sheet unnecessary, she would certainly have stripped it off the sofa”(114), but she did not. Gregor’s family slowly forgets the fact that he was once and still is, a beloved family member, yet they begin to treat him differently as a result of his metamorphosis. What do you guys think about his family’s newfound treatment of Gregor?

Mark D5 said...

I have already fallen in love with this story. I want to understand why Gregor Samsa out of all people was transformed into a gigantic insect. What did he do to deserve it? Usually a character who get a punishment like that would eserve it? Is being transformed into a gigantic insect a punishment? The fact Samsa was transformed doesn't even really faze him. He acts calm and just worries about getting to work. I really need to finish the story before I comment about this anymore.

But before I finish this post I have a quick quotation. Samsa is decribing chief's porter.

" The porter was a creatue of the chief's, spinless and stupid". (Kafka 91). I find it ironic that he calls the porter a creature when in reality he is a big insect swaying back in forth trying to get out his bed.

Mr. G said...

Hey, you guys are really doing great, nice research / cool sculpture (Mark) and nice job Rodney noticing the language and Will, nice job bringing up issues of narrator. You all did swell on the first session. My recommendation for your switch into "Metam.." is to focus your blogs on the text a little more and try to lengthen your posts--I think it will actually make the process of blogging easier since you will have more to respond to with each other. Rodney, I also like to comparison to Camus...this might also be something you guys can do--compare to other texts. Caitlyn's been out for a while, so hopefully she'll catch up with y'all soon. I also noticed you are a little behind your pacing. This can be easily remedied.

Rodney B5 said...

Replying to Will’s post, I agree that his family’s treatment of Gregor changed dramatically throughout the book especially from his sister. When she notices Gregor has become a bug, she is shocked of course but ends up taking care of him. She fed him and tried to satisfy him. “Yet what she actually did next, in the goodness of her heart, he could never have guessed at. To find out what he liked she brought him a whole selection of food, all set out on an old newspaper.”(Kafka 107) When the story proceeds, her caring of Gregor lessons until the end when she is finally fed up with him. “‘He must go,’ cried Gregor’s sister, ‘that’s the only solution Father. You must just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we’ve believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble. But how can it be Gregor?’”(Kafka 134)

If anything, I believe this relates to how society treats those who are different. Most people who are hated are isolated just like Gregor was. If the difference is of look, many people do look at the person with disgust and want nothing to do with them just like in the story. Gregor’s family, along with society, is not able to accept the changes and instead just try and keep as far away as possible from them. This fear of difference or change is something that is very common in the world. How does everyone else see this?

William C5 said...

I could not agree more with Rodney's post regarding Gregor's sister and his theory about society treating those who are different poorly. As Rodney previously mentioned, that as time passes by, Gregor's sister, as well as his father, start to develop feelings of wanting to get "rid" of Gregor, as a result of their inability to accept his change. However, what proves interesting is the fact that Gregor's mother refuses to stop loving her son and continues to care for him regardless of his metamorphosis. "She had to be held back by main force ... cry[ing] out: 'Do let me in to Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Can't you understand that I must go to him?'"(114). Gregor's mother senses the fact that Gregor is in dire need of seeing her, vice versa. When "Gregor's desire to see his mother [is] ... fulfilled"(114), he regains a little bit of humanity. "He had indeed been so near the brink of forgetfulness that only the voice of his mother, which he had not heard for so long, had drawn him back"(116). Gregor almost loses himself to his creature-like instincts and needs, when he "looked forward to having his room emptied of furnishing"(116), yet something as simple as his mother's voice rescues him from wanting to throw away his past life. His mother indeed does truly love Gregor regardless of what he has become. She never loses "hope of his ever getting better"(116). This is shown when she converses with Grete, and comments that "[she] think[s] it would be best to keep [Gregor's] room exactly as it has always been, so that when he comes back to [them] he will find everything unchanged and be able all the more easily to forget what has happened in between"(116). She even goes as far as to choke her husband after his attempt to kill Gregor, "with her hands clasped around [his] neck as she begged for her son's life"(122). What does everybody else view Mrs. Samsa?

Rodney B5 said...

To Mark, I do not really see a clear reason for Gregor to be transformed into a bug. To your question on what did he do to deserve this may be the wrong question. He may have not done anything wrong at all. This “punishment”, which may not be one at all, could be for another reason that he wanted. Gregor, the only person to work in his family, supported his whole family with his job. He also mentions what he has to go through at work. “What omission at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were all employees in a body nothing but scoundrels, was there not among them one single loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm’s time in a morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and actually incapable of leaving his bed?”(Kafka 95) He was the “man” so to speak of the house even though his father was still there. I imagine this must be a very stressful situation. What if he could possibly get away from all that worrying and become something else? Would you not want to be carefree? Gregor’s problems could have led him to think in this matter and without realizing it may happen, actually became into a creature that has no worries. But of course, not much went his way. Perhaps he was made into a creature

To Will, you brought up very interesting points with evidence to support them all. The affect that Mrs. Samsa has on Gregor is strong as you pointed out. Even though he has physically transformed into a different creature, he is truly not that creature yet. Once he is at the brink of becoming the creature, which comes when his mother and sister start taking out his furniture, he hears his mothers voice, and listens to her. “On hearing these words from his mother, Gregor realized that the lack of all direct human speech for the past two months together with the monotony of family life must have confused his mind, otherwise he could not account for the fact that he had quite earnestly looked forward to having his mother emptied of furnishing.”(Kafka 116) He is deeply touched by this. He is kept in a human state of mind, even though he has been going through so much emotional suffering since has become a bug. This brings up the topic of his loneliness. He does not see any affection anymore, does not eat much, and is a bug. Why is he still in a house which brings him pain? Is this worse than the stress that he faced from having to support his family?

William C5 said...

Since Rodney has already answered the majority of Mark's questions, I want to talk about the comedic and ironic aspect of the "Metamorphosis", when Mark "want[s] to understand why Gregor Samsa out of all people was transformed into a gigantic insect". Hilarity ensues when Kafka has Gregor metamorphosized, when he is a hard-working salesman who supports his family, as Rodney pointed out. Gregor certainly does not deserve to be transfigured into the monstrosity that he has become... or, rather, does he deserve it? Like Rodney mentioned in his post, Gregor indeed was living in "a very stressful situation", and that in becoming an insignificant insect, is carefree. Gregor is both deserving and undeserving of being metamorphosized, where he does deserves to live a carefree life, yet undeserving of facing the consequences of reaching what he deserves. Sorry if what I posted sounds a bit confusing, but hopefully everybody will get the gist of what I mean. What do you guys think about this interpretation?

William C5 said...

If it's okay, blog 2 will be extended to allow a few more posts, and blog 3 will instead be due on Sunday instead of today.

Rodney B5 said...

Replying to Will’s post, I can see what you are getting at even though it does seem a bit confusing. In a sense, he can’t have it all. Gregor may be able to have the carefree life but he still must have the consequences that come with it as opposed to completely having a “win-win” situation. He was given a break on all the stress full job responsibilities he had. He was then able to not work and not worry about having to pay all the family bills that were all put on his shoulders. Since this was taken away, he was placed in another tough situation in his home. He had no way to pay bills so now he had to get his family to accept him in the form that he was in. This is what he would struggle with until the end of the story. His isolation also did not help. He was stuck in his room by himself. In a way he was hoping everything would just go back to the way it all was before, which is also what the reader might have expected, but this was not so. His hopes and determination seemed to be put to the test. Looking at it another way, what if it was his family that was put to the test. Could they live without Gregor? Could they accept him in the way he was? Whether Gregor or his family was tested, neither seemed to win at the end. You could argue that his family won because they ended up getting rid of “the bug” which they accepted as not being Gregor at all. I hope this cleared up things. Feel free to post more if anything I wrote is confusing or if you have anything to add or disagree with.

William C5 said...

Rodney previous post is truly insightful and awesome. "The Metamorphosis" becomes much more interesting, if the story is interpreted, as Rodney mentions, as a test to Gregor's family, or even Gregor himself. I really like the idea and I can definitely see where Rodney came up with the idea of "The Metamorphosis" being a trial. The absurdity of the story definitely leaves it open to many different interpretations, and I really liked how you ended your post. Aside from everything, I don't really have much to add to your blog post, and I agree with the majority, if not all of the things you brought up. I feel that most of the open ends regarding "The Metamorphosis" have really been tied up well, so, good job everyone.

Rodney B5 said...

Beginning the discussion on “Wedding Preparations in the Country,” I would like to first start off talking about Franz Kafka’s writing style in this particular story. I am not sure if it is just me, but throughout most of his writing, it seems as if he changes his writing style quite a bit. In “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka did not go into deep details, instead focused on the story and what was going on. In “Wedding Preparations in the Country,” Kafka uses a lot of detail.

Now getting into the story, there is one part that seems to reference “The Metamorphosis.” Raban, the main character, says “As I lie in bed I assume the shape of a big beetle, a stag beetle or a cockchafer, I think.”(Kafka 56) This reference is very interesting to me. While I was reading this story, this one line stood out the most to me especially since I had just read “The Metamorphosis” before reading this. I would like to know what everybody believes about this line. Is it a deliberate reference to his past work? What does it signify in this story? Sharing the way I took this line, I believe that it is a reference to Kafka’s other story to relate the two characters, Gregor and Raban. Both characters may not be in the same situation as another but both are going through what may be stressful situations. Gregor has to support his family while Raban is on his way to meet his future wife. Gregors metamorphosis was literal. Raban simply was just his thoughts. He continues to say “The form of a large beetle, yes. Then I would pretend it was a matter of hibernating, and I would press my little legs to my bulging belly, And I would whisper a few words, instructions to my sad body, which stands close beside me, bent. Soon I shall have done-it bows, it goes swiftly, and it will manage everything efficiently while I rest.”(Kafka 56) Both characters seem to want this transformation into a bug to escape a situation where they do not feel comfortable.

Mark D5 said...

Penal - of, pertaining to, or involving punishment, as for crimes or offenses
The Penal Colony. The Punishment Colony. This is a very fitting title for this perticular story by Kafka. I started reading this one and there are a couple of questions I have that maybe you guys can help me out with.
The explorer is an interesting character that I don't understand. Since Kafka doesn't name any of his characters in The Penal Colony we are only introduced to him as simply The Explorer. He seems to be the only on with morals. The officer seems so intent on serving his Commandant, even though he seems more devoted to the old one rather than the new one, that all morality seems to fly out the door.
In all of Kakfa's stories he seems to be creating his own world. In our world I am sure that a colony would take pleasure in seeing people's death sentences but Kafka writes in a way which makes the reader seem as far away from the world he is writing about as possible, for example, not naming his characters.
Let me take you to a passage on page 150. This is when the officer is talking about how each prisoner takes the punishment from the apparatus." But how quiet he grows at just about the sixth hour! Enlightenment comes to the most dull-witted. It begins around the eyes. From there it radiates. A moment that might tempt one to get under th Harrow oneself." I believe this is one of the most important passages I have read so far in this story. In the most severe forms of torture a human being will be enlightened. Enlightened by what? Do they have a relgious experience? Do they finally see the error in there ways? Does anyone find it interesting that the fact that a person is enlightened during their sixth hour makes the officer actually want to get inside the apparatus himself? Also, "It begins around the eyes." This could just be the fact that James Joyce is following me around in life but Kafka has Englightenment begins in the eyes makes me believe that he did this because of the myth of Oediupus.

William C5 said...

Rodney's post has quite a bit of information that I noticed as well. I agree that compared to "The Metamorphosis", "Wedding Preparations in the Country" has more details concerning Raban's environment and everything that he sees on his way to meet his soon to be wife. He concentrates on what he sees, for example, "On the pavement straight in front of him there were many people walking in various rhythms. Every now and again one would step forward and cross the road. A little girl was holding a tired puppy in her outstretched hands. Two gentlemen were exchanging information. The one held his hands palm upward, raising and lowering them in regular motion as though he were balancing a load. Then one caught sight of a lady whose hat was heavily laden with ribbons, buckles, and flower"(52). This is all in the first page and second paragraph of the story. He talks about a man's rhythm as he walks, a girl with her puppy, two men talking, and a woman with a decorative hat. That was actually only about half of the paragraph as well.

I also noticed an oddity that seemed to be a reference to "The Metamorphosis." I took this as Raban's attempt to escape society in order to concentrate more on what was ahead of him. This was a state of mind that allowed him to actually take his mind off the other people around him, which is rather different to the way the story begins when he talks about everything around him.

Bringing up a new topic, Raban talks about the distinction over using "I" versus "one." He sees a woman who he finds attractive and says "One works so feverishly at the office that afterwards one is too tired even to enjoy one's holidays properly. But even all that work does not give one a claim to be treated lovingly by everyone; on the contrary, one is alone a total stranger and only an object of curiosity. And so long as you say 'one' instead of 'I,' there's nothing in it and one can easily tell the story; but as soon as you admit to yourself that it is you yourself, you feel as though transfixed and are horrified"(53). It seems as if he believes people are part of everybody's imagination and when people say 'I' they realize they are not 'real'. This perplexes me regarding what he was trying to get at. What does everyone else think about this?

Rodney B5 said...

The passage that Will posted about Kafka’s description clearly shows how Raban lets his mind float around and explain everything that he sees. He does not tend to stick to one subject, instead of says something briefly about what he says then moves on to what is probably more interesting to him. This tells me his mind is probably not in the right state to get married or be sure of anything. This could foreshadow problems he will have to face later.

Also, the passage Will brought up about his argument over the uses of ‘I’ and ‘one’ was very interesting. The part of that passage that stood out to me the most was when he says “…as soon as you admit to yourself that it is you yourself, you feel as though transfixed and are horrified.”(Kafka 53) Your interpretation is quite close to what I thought about. What I got out of that passage was not so much people being just a part of one’s imagination but one’s realization comes when they see that they are not the only people in this world and that they have to deal with others emotions as much as they have to deal with their own. My explanation may be quite confusing so let me try and clear it up. People do not like to deal with their own emotions so they try to hide it by not placing themselves in a situation where they have to feel emotions they don’t like. Instead they hide their emotions but when they get personal by using ‘I’ or hearing others say ‘I’, emotions arise and they get scared. I’m not sure if it’s any clearer since it does seem to be a very confusing topic that he brings up.

I would like to talk a bit about the missing pages that are seen a few times throughout the story. Raban may be having a conversation with somebody when all of a sudden there is a part that says something like [Two pages missing], then the story continues as if nothing was missing at all which does cause a bit of confusing. What could have happened in those two pages? I was not sure if this was done on purpose but as I researched this part I learned that these pages were lost. Even though this was not deliberate I think it adds a different feel to the book that may leave you guessing on what had happened. The story just flows right on to the next available sentence. How does everyone feel about the missing pages? I thought it would be quite aggravating at first but I learned to just continue the story.

Mark D5 said...

" The Commandant in his wisdom ordained that the children should have the peference; I, of course, because of my office had the priviledge of always being at hand; often enough I would be squatting there with a small child in either arm." (154). This sent me over the edge. People used to fight to get a spot at the chance to see the death sentence of a criminal and they would give prioty spots. How shameless can a colony be? They, and when I say they I mean the colony sense Kafka uses no names, are taking the innocence of little children by letting them get the first spots to see a man be tortured for twelve hours because they most likely commited a small act of defiance. It is not good that I think the most sane character in this story is the mn who said " Throw that whip away or I'll eat you alive." to the captain. Like I said this is like a different world. Of course people like to see the punishement others, but not like this. The apparatus audience reminds me of the Salem witch trials but only worse. And when something is more immoral than the witch trials one could only imagine the other horrible things the Penial Colony has the power to do.

What would happen to the explorer if he pointed out the immoral acts that the officer is performing? The officer seems to really care about the thoughts the explorer has. I see this because the officer wants to fully explain how the apparatus works and if the explorer gets the wrong idea of the machine the officer quickly fixes this notion. "The explorer thought to himself...The injustice of the procedure and the inhumanity of the execution was undeniable. No one could supposed that he had any selfish interest in the manner, for the condemned man was a complete stranger..." (152). So obviously this island is one of the only places which uses such harsh punishment. The explorer is a traveler who has seen many places and never usually has urges to comfront the inhumanity that the people use but in this senario he wants to stand up for the prisoner. Will he?

William C5 said...

Replying to Rodney's post about the missing pages, I agree that it adds a different "feel" for the story. The gap between the two texts are a tragedy, however, the gist of the story can still understood.

Anyway, another topic I saw was nature, more specifically Raban's attention towards horses and other animals. He mentions horses a few times, observing that there are "carriages on delicate high wheels ... drawn along by horses with arched necks. The people who sat at ease on the upholstered seats gazed silently at the pedestrians, the shops, the balconies, and the sky. If it happened that one carriage overtook another, then the horses would press against each other, and the harness straps hung dangling. The animals tugged at the shafts, the carriage bowled along, swaying as it gathered speed, until the swerve around the carriage ahead was completed and the horses moved apart again, only their narrow quiet heads inclined toward each other"(52). Kafka brings up this detailed and insightful description about horses on the first page of the chapter. He then brings up horses again in the latter of the story. In my opinion, nature is Raban's way of getting away from the problems he is facing, especially since nature is untouched by evil and corruption. Perhaps he percieves humans as corrupt and weak as opposed to nature, which proves both powerful and beautiful. How does everyone else feel about this relation between Raban and nature?

Mark D5 said...

Wrapping up my blogs on The Penal Colony I wanted to adress the theme of absurdism. As suspected the officer does put himself through the apparatus. I was thinking that Kafka wanted to satire how people are so devoted to there kings. All of The Commandant's follows were waiting for an absurd prophecy to come true. The prophecy went as such, "after a certain number of years the Commandant will rise again and lead his adherents from this house to recover the colony. Have faith and wait!" (167). This is absolutely ridiculous. I wish I could understand why Kafka ended the story like he did. He never really answers many questions. He does have the officer go on a rant of why he was trying to impress the explorer and his planes to overthrow the new Commandant which answers many of my earlier questions but the end of the story is very anti-climactic.

The condemed man and the soldier make the effort to leave the corrupt colony but the exployer leaves them. I believe what he witnessed was enough and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the colony so he left and didn't look back. The author's purpose I am still confused about. At first I was thinking it was to show the enlightenment a person can gain during their last few moments of death that no one can understand until they have reached that moment in their life. After finishing the story I believe the author's purpose was to show corruption in a colony and how people follow inhumane acts just for amusement. I don't think I have gotten it right just yet, but I feel I am close.

William C5 said...

Addressing Mark, I'm glad that you brought up the question to why Kafka does not give his characters in "The Penal Colony" names. What makes Kafka's writing even more interesting is the fact that besides naming his characters "the explorer", "the officer", "the soldier", and "the condemned man", as you mentioned previously, Kafka also names the components of the punishment machine in this same manner. By reducing the character's titles to those of the machine components ("The Harrow ... The Bed ... The Designer"(142)), Kafka leaves the impression that the character's are less human in the regard that they are nameless. Conversely, Kafka also stresses the importance and even personifies these machine components.

About the "enlightenment" the victims of the machine undergo, Kafka perhaps refers to the flashbacks or epiphanies people have before dying. I'm not sure if this answers what you were asking.

Regarding the children spectating during the exectutions, and the officer's willingess, as you mentioned, to encourage them to watch, is pretty sickening. When talking about their innocence being stripped away, I can't help but think of Stephen in the Portrait.

Replying to your last post, I agree that "The Penal Colony" is very absurd. The justice system and the officer contrast so much to my beliefs, as well as to society's. Concerning the condemned man and the solider wanting to escape the colony with the explorer, Kafka leaves their reason unknown. I don't really know why they want to leave the colony, and why the explorer does not allow them to join him. What do you think about all that has been going on, Rodney?

Rodney B5 said...

Mark, you brought up a lot of interesting ideas and observations about "The Penal Colony", and I have the same ideas and agree with what Will posted when replying to your blog so repeating what he said would be repetitive.

However, I would like to go back to what you brought up about the absurdity of the story, especially when the officer offers an explanation to the explorer about the condemned man's execution. The officer tells the explorer that a captain to who the condemned man is both servant and sentry to "wanted to see if [the condemned man] was doing his duty. He opened the door as the clock struck two and there was his man curled up asleep. He took his riding whip and lashed him across the face. Instead of getting up and begging pardon, the man caught hold of his master's legs, shook him, and cried: 'Throw that whip away or I'll eat you alive'"(146). The justice system described in the story is really absurd, executing a man because he fell asleep on the job and grabbed his master's legs when being whipped. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the condemned man did not do anything wrong, and it is strongly hinted at that he is not too intelligent, many times throughout the story. The officer proves to be even more absurd, when he concludes that the definitive evidence that proves the condemned man guilty is the captain's testimony alone. The officer does not even want to "wast[e] time"(146) by getting the condemned man's side of the story, showing how absurdly biased, unreasonable, and illogical he is. What does everyone else think about the absurdity of the penal colony's justice system?

William C5 said...

Rodney couldn't be more accurate when describing the absurdity of the officer as well as the justice system in the penal colony. The condemned man really does not deserve his sentence, and karma justifies his prosecutors when the officer releases the condemned man and recieves an undeserved murder instead of brutal torturing.

Regarding Mark's claim that the ending is anti-climactic, I partially agree. Aside from the officer's death in the punishment machine, nothing really happens beside the mention of the late Commandant's burial site. However, what leaves me interested is the fact that the late Commandant, so highly regarded and praised by the officer, is buried with "a simple stone, low enough to be covered by a table"(167), in "the back wall ... [of] a teahouse"(166-167). The late Commandant, formerly a powerful man acting as ruler of the colony, is buried in a lowly, poor, shoddily built teahouse filled with "dock laborers ... poor, humble creatures"(167). The new regime of the colony does not seem to like the former Commandant's strong enthusiasm for capital punishment via death contraption, and this is really evident with the quality of his grave site. What is even more interesting though, is the power the Commandant has over his adherents, one strong case, being the officer. The radicals who still follow the late Commandant's footsteps left "an inscription on [his grave] in very small letters ... 'Here rests the old Commandant. His adherents, who now must be nameless, have dug this grave and set up this stone. There is a prophecy that after a certain number of years the Commandant will rise again and lead his adherents from this house to recover the colony. Have faith and wait"(167). The colony is so ashamed of the Commandant, his justice system, and deliverance of punishment, that they did not even give him a proper burial, forcing his adherents to do it. The adherents also now must hide due to the animosity they recieve for their loyalty to the old Commandant, and they even absurdly believe he will one day rise from the dead to once again take control of the colony. How ridiculously absurd. What do you guys think about the ending Kafka leaves readers?

Rodney B5 said...

Will's post about the Commandant's burial site is really interesting, and I agree that it is absurd that the colonists truly believe in the Commandant's resurrection. Kafka leaves the ending of "The Penal Colony" satisfying the typical "happy ending fairy tale", with the fact that a fictional, cruel ruler with an unjust justice system will be forgotten and looked down upon after his death. He wraps up the story with the officer's death, and as you stated, the freedom of the condemned man. I think he does this in order to show the improvement of the colony over a short span of time. The colony changes so drastically, going from a strict colony with an unfair justice system, to a colony that provides fairer trials, as well as the abolishment of capital punishment. This all happens because of a change of Commandants, and as Kafka shows, one man, a person in power, can influence people easily. This is also shown, when you pointed out the fact that the Commandant's adherents stayed so loyal to him and still obsessed over his influence even after his death. This is also demonstrated with the new Commandant as the people in the teahouse show their allegiance, when rejoicing "when the explorer had read the inscription"(167) about the old Commandant's death.

Overall, "The Penal Colony" is a story that I really enjoyed. What do you guys think about the colony's change?

Mark D5 said...

I believe that Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor depicts the true thoughts of a lonely man. Kafka starts off he story telling of Blumfeld's journey up his six flights of stairs. The reader already sees how much hardship the man has to go through just by having Kakfa start the story off with an elderly man climbing up a staircase. One would feel sorry for an elderly man with no companion wouldn't they? But later a few more paragraphs later it is understood why he has nobody to live the rest of his life with and Kakfta does this by having the thought of a dog enter the man's mind. Blumfeld gives a few reasons of why a dog would be good for him but then states, " True, a dog also has its drawbacks. However well kept it may be, it is bound to dirty up the room....and even if the dog remains healthy, one day it will grow old, one won't have the heart to get rid of the faithful animal in time, and then comes the moment when one's own age peers out at one from the dog's oozing eyes." (183-184).
Now the reader understands why he is alone and why he will say alone. Blumfeld's character has the tendency to push things away no matter how good they would be for him. I know you guys didn't read The Remains of the Day but the cleanliness fact is identical to the main character in that story. And the fact that they always have a reason to push something away because they think they know what is best.
Kakfta adds a strange twist to the story, as he normally does, providing to the fact that Blumfeld has to push everything away. At Blumfeld's door are two balls that he can't push away. They are always right next to him but the balsl won't let Blumfeld touch them. I predict this is going to end up a lesson on Blumfeld's part tnot to take anyhthing for granted.

Rodney B5 said...

It is true that in Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor, the bachelor seems very lonely. I agree with Mark that the dog, which enters his mind, shows why he is lonely in the sense that he tends to push away everything that may be good, surrounding him in the bad that life has to give. But then the balls came that he finds when he arrives at his home. They begin to annoy him once he realizes he cannot get rid of them. But are they good for him or are they there to show him that he cannot keep pushing away everything? Also I would like to talk why Kafka decided to choose two balls out of every single object he could choose from? I see this as bringing up absurdity. If a person were to follow the bachelor or a dog he could easily push them away. But how does he get rid of the balls that do not want to leave him alone? How have the balls taken a life of there own? What does everybody think about absurdity fitting into this story?

I would also like to talk about how the bachelor tends to deal with the people at his workplace. Does his character act the same as when the balls are around him? Also I would like to talk about how Kafka’s writing style is different in this work. What I noticed throughout the story was that the bachelor’s name, Blumfeld, was constantly said over and over again. He was not referred to as “he” in the story. He was always called Blumfeld. What does everyone think of this?

William C5 said...

Replying to Mark, I agree that Blumfeld lives an extremely lonely life. Regarding his idea of adopting a dog, it seems that cleanliness, as you stated, has prevented him from doing so. In fact, to specify when you mention Blumfeld "pushing" everything away, it seems that his OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) involving cleanliness results in his everlong life as a bachelor.

Regarding Rodney's post about the absurdity of Kafka choosing the balls to be the objects that appear in the story, it is rather funny. I like how they just appear out of nowhere like "magic"(185) one monotonous day in Blumfeld's life, and cause catastrophe and annoyance. Even when Blumfeld has the chance to rid the balls and "lock them both up somewhere"(186), it's odd that he doesn't. Another thing I noticed, as Rodney pointed out, that Kafka writes "Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor", with the protagonist referred to in third person. As Rodney mentions, Kafka also does not use pronouns when talking about Blumfeld. It's really interesting that he does this, however, I don't have any idea or theory to why Kafka does this.

Mr. G said...

great job boys.