Franz Kafka’s novel, The Castle, is filled with frustration and a sense of being lost outside this castle with no way in and no way to be heard in sight. The main character in the book isn’t even known by a name, but just the initial K. His feelings of inadequacy and disaffection from the processes of the village certainly lead to even more frustration when there is nothing that he can do to change his life.
Things certainly start to get frustrating for the protagonist when he arrives into the village and attempts to fulfill employment as a land surveyor and nothing seems to go effectually and in accordance with the many rules and procedures of the village. K finds out that all of the approval goes on from someone known as Klemm, an official. However no one in the town seems to know of what goes on in the castle or who the officials actually are because of an air of secrecy and strangeness.
This theme outlines the entire novel with many missteps being taken by officials, such as with K being assigned to a position he did not ask for and the fact that all of the villagers seem to blindly respect all the leaders and the castle, itself. The strange way that the village is ran irritate K and it alienates him, as well as he is not only a stranger to the town, but ironically a person without a name and only an initial. It seems that Kafka intentionally does this to show how unimportant people are in the face of bureaucracy, although the book seems an exaggerated critique of this.
Even though the book is very exaggerated, this hyperbole is fitting for Kafka and is a reminder of his other works, such as The Trial and Metamorphosis. Through K’s eyes the feelings and beliefs of Kafka are relayed in such a way that must be hyberbolic, as dealing with the topic of bureaucracy and ensuing personal alienation is a difficult topic. Kafka and his character, K, perform this task very well. With the castle that looms large over the village and is off limits to ordinary people, the castle takes on an extraordinary meaning as a metaphor for power and control.
It is control that K ultimately wants over his life and his lack of it is something that is a part of his central issue of struggle. K struggles to find not only what the functions of the officials are, he also seek to find flaw in the supposed flawlessness of the methods of the officials, but most importantly K tries to find meaningfulness in his own existence. K exerts much time and energy into talking to fellow villagers and in trying to find a way to access the castle. However, K begins to seem like a character stuck in a life of futility.
It is here that readers can make connections to their own lives in the bureaucracy and rules of everyday existence, which one may take for granted or not even ponder. However, others who have had experience trying to change their lives and their communities for the better can certainly relate to the seemingly useless organs of government that are there to function as part of a whole. The castle seems to serve as the entire body of government and the officials as the functioning organs of that body while the villagers and people like K are simply not a part of this structure.
The issue of being apart from the controlling mechanisms of government seem to take up so much of K’s time in trying to connect with it that he has little time to think of anything else or to attempt to change the village. J. M. Coatzee’s Elizabeth Costello: The Role of Women in Academics J. M. Coatzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello is filled with the trials and tribulations of the main character, who the book is named for. As an aged women Elizabeth is able to reflect on her life in the novel, many aspects of the entirety of the life of a woman is laid out in this piece.
Elizabeth is a traveling writer, who talks about a myriad of issues that really seem to have little to do with one another. Her confusing choice of interests lends to the idea that female academics are under more scrutiny for their choices and areas of interest than a man would be and while Elizabeth shows a love for animals, which seems a suitable area for a woman to devote her time, her passion for the area of censorship seems to be out of line at times. As well, her interest in humanism and the Holocaust seem to be out of line, as well.
Though it sometimes seems that because Elizabeth is not a very talented public speaker that all her lectures are odd and unfeminine, however the lectures on the more strong, religious, and political subjects are even more strange. It seems that Elizabeth really isn’t trying to defend her views to her audience as the book goes in and instead it seems that she is trying to defend them to herself. So all of these lectures and speeches do not need to be delivered eloquently, because they do not need to be understood by her audience, but only to herself.
She also does not seem to mind if she irritates her audience and will sometimes confront them in a way that seems like she is, herself irritated that she must speak in public. The way her circuit of speeches is written does make it seem like a circus with her as an animal performing for others while she would rather have the refuge of being alone and knowing that her ideas were infallible. Instead, she must constantly defend herself and the fact that she must do so and is not accepted as an expert does seem to be a feminist element of the book.
The underlying message seems to be that if she was a man, she would be accepted as an expert and not have to exert so much force in speaking. Elizabeth, herself, seems to be quite critical of men and of non-African writers, as well. It seems that she attempts to lash out at anyone, who she believes may be the source of her situation of unhappiness. Though she seems to be unflappable and string, her weaknesses shine through the most in her arguments and her defending of her own beliefs.
This is especially true when she refuses to place herself in the same mold as male writers and she also shows her contempt for writers with an interest in Africa, who do not live there. It seems that the writer attempts to show the element of alienation with academics and writers and, in this case women. Women in academics are very limited in what they can show, as far as their feelings. Many of the unspoken rules for men apply to women academics, who must present themselves as strong and never deterred by their critics.
Though it seems that universally, individuals whether men or women are their own worst critics. As Elizabeth ages, she begins to see this and her attempt to reconcile her thoughts and beliefs with her criticisms of herself is a strong yet subtle theme here. Robert Bolano’s By Night in Chile: Confessions of a Political Priest Robert Bolano’s By Night in Chile is a novel that is just as religious as it is political and deeply human. Bolano’s protagonist Sebastian Urrutia Lacroix is a flawed priest, who on his deathbed, attempts to reconcile his actions before he is judged by God.
The peace that the character is attempting to find is one of the cleansing of the soul by telling a story which is a metaphor for the way a person feels when they reveal their secrets or even when they hear another person’s secrets that are being told for the right reason. This is how the audience is made to fell, as if they are bearing witness to a confession by this priest, who is far from perfect but willing to make amends. He is also a very good story teller and it is hard to separate the priest from the author, as what is said in the book is so moving and seemingly genuine.
However, it does seem, as times, to be a contradiction for a priest to wait until he is on his deathbed to appeal to God. Fear and politics are a central theme here and it may be said that the priest was afraid to tell his political story for fear of being killed. While he is on his deathbed, though, he seems more prepared to meet God but at times he is afraid of the judgment he will receive from God for his actions. He also seems to be a person, who cared little about the rumors and ramblings of the people in this world, although they effected him deeply.
Though not a violent man, he does show the weaknesses of fear and an unwillingness to see ordinary people as important and as equal as God and the afterlife. Themes of Communism and art permeate the novel, as well with the priest showing how artistic he is and a person who was esteemed in the world of literary criticism. This is another paradox, as the priest first seems to be a man unconcerned with mortal life until, it is revealed that he is a literary man.
This can almost be forgiven, as when the audience discovers this, the musings and thoughts of the man have already been read and his poetic voice is so beautiful, it seems inconsequential. He also admits to dealing with Communists and his politics on earth obviously have earned him negative judgment from the people around him and he is unsure of how God will react. The audience is made to feel a back and forth sort of felling for him as he talks about his transgressions and at times it seems that he should be forgiven while at other times, it seems that he should not.
In all, his poetic voice seems to be such a gift that it is hard to imagine a person having such a gift and then not being in God’s favor. However, his self-pity and his fear are not redeemable qualities and it seems that his feelings more than his actions actually make him less likable. Though one has to remind themselves that he is an old man, at some times given to irrational thinking, he is a hard character to like at all times. Though he is definitely a memorable and unique character.
Courtney from Study Moose
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