Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions

By Elizabeth Boa | Go to book overview

306; EN168) the spot they are in.55 The verb sich fortbewegen implies forwards movement and the German sentence is shaped to end with the image of hands stretched out. The children promise future hope, not as a stark choice of being either inside or outside the law, but as motion towards contact. They also belong in a series of generational signs beginning with the old woman from a past order observing the arrest of the man of the present. These infants belong in a future beyond K.'s death and the grille of time which cuts them off from K. Fräulein Bürstner, or the woman who looks like her, is, as I argued at the beginning of this chapter, a second, more ambiguous sign. Her appearance causes K. to drop all resistance in response to the lesson for him which she represents. But as she turns off in another direction, the woman moves towards what may be a different future. The last omen is ambiguous between hope and despair. It repeats the gesture of the children as K. now sees only arms in the lighted window trying to meet, but the gap between the outstretched arms of the other who leans from a window and K.'s raised hands with their spread fingers is wider now, and in the end all that seems to outlive K.'s end is the shame of it. The parallel movement between children's and adults' arms which fail to meet could mean either that the hope of childhood is doomed to be extinguished in adulthood, or that hands which cannot now meet may meet in the future. Even the shame is ambiguous: it adds to the horror of K.'s demise, but also denies recognition to the punitive law. Despite K.'s drastic end, then, the omens deny total narrative closure, leaving openings for the reader to think further.


CONCLUSION

I have argued that Josef K represents a subject constructed by patriarchal and class relations in forms they assume in an urban, capitalist society which also has a strong, if chaotic, state apparatus and is riddled with ethnic tensions and with anti-semitism. This model explains why Kafka has been appropriated both by left-wing critics of capitalism and by Cold War anti-Communists defending liberal freedoms against Soviet statism. The court

____________________
55
The English trans. omits the crucial 'yet' ( GN168).

-240-

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