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Franz Kafka “Before the Law” Essay

In his story, Before the Law, Franz Kafka suggests that obstacles that one faces in life can either be used to mold one’s success or bring about one’s failure. If one can overcome the challenges that they are faced with, they grow in a unique type of way, for every individual perceives each situation in a distinct fashion. That unique type of growth is what establishes a person’s character and perception of the world. However, if one cannot overcome their obstacles, then they cut off their means for growth and are left uninspired, forgetting any dreams or aspirations. It is through the man’s interactions with the doorkeeper, and his inability to overcome this obstacle, that eventually leads him down the path of complacency and failure. It is the doorkeeper in this parable that keeps the man from gaining access to the law, and his inability to pass this doorkeeper that leads to his demise. It is important to realize that the man strives to reach “the law”, however he winds up getting only as far as the doorkeeper. A question arises here, what would have happened if the man was able to overcome the doorkeeper and enter the gate? The doorkeeper himself somewhat provides an answer to this question when he warns the man that he is “only the least of the doorkeepers.

From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after the other, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him.” Of course these are difficulties that the man from the country has not expected, and instead of taking his chances, the doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at one side of the gate. The man failed to realize that even if there were another doorkeeper behind the first door, he would have been able to face him with the experience and knowledge gained by overcoming the initial doorkeeper. Why was the man so foolish to just sit there and let his life pass him by? This concept of attaining knowledge applies not only to the man from the country but also to every in ordinary life. By the man not overcoming one of the challenges in his life, he was not able to strive and succeed in meeting the goals that he has set forth for himself. When one overcomes their challenges, the knowledge that they have gained from that experience merely provides them with necessary tools to face a more difficult situation.

Overcoming all of these situations or challenges is like climbing a mountain towards excellence and achievement of ones goals. A prime example of trying to overcome challenges in every day life in order to¬†succeed is myself. I am a first year college student who is on the rocky road towards success. I am continually meeting one challenge after the next, striving to achieve every one of the goals I have set for myself. From elementary to high school and now to college, I am using the things I have learned, the tools I need in order to meet the next and more difficult challenge in my life. Unfortunately, the man accepts the stool that the doorkeeper offers him where “he sits for days and years.” The man never gains any sort of stature, for he looses out on all of the potential growth he could have gained by standing up to the doorkeeper. Why didn’t he stand up? What made him so weak that the doorkeeper was able to take such advantage of him? All of these questions are now brought into the picture because of the man’s stupidity in just giving up not only with the doorkeeper but also with himself.

Before the man realizes that he has reached a state where he is looked down upon, and questions asked of him “are put indifferent, as great lords put them.” Unaware of the hole that he has dug for himself, the man eventually loses total sight of his original goal of reaching “the law,” and the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He even reaches the point of begging the fleas on the doorkeeper’s coat to grant him access to “the law” if the man were to only realize from the beginning that the gate was placed there for his own personal self-development. The lessons he could have learned by pushing beyond the initial doorkeeper would have more than likely built him into a totally new person, with unique talents and insights gained from his experience. Instead he gives up on himself, he grows old and never reaches any of his goals, and he never achieves his aspiration.

The doorkeeper then finally points out, that “no one else could be admitted here, since the gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.” This closing of the gate was the end to everything the man wanted, all of his hopes and dreams have now been shut behind a door and are now irretrievable. The author gives us a sense of sorrow towards the old man for not being able to achieve his wants and desires. Instead, we learn a valuable lesson in the story about the life one leads. One must be prepared to face the challenges that life present. If one is able to overcome their challenges, they will grow from their experience and form their own unique personality. If one cannot overcome their obstacles, they may spend their life stuck in a rut of complacency,¬†never achieving any goals or dreams that they once had. The poor old man from the country had to learn this important lesson out for himself.


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