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

By Elizabeth Boa | Go to book overview

8
Feminist Approaches to The Castle

In crossing the bridge, K. enters the village as a stranger, just as readers of a novel leave behind their everyday world to enter the fictional domain. Like K. himself, the first thing the first-time reader of the The Castle confronts is the seeming emptiness which is the castle. But on first seeing the castle by daylight K. compares it with the church in his home village; just so is any reader drawn to compare his or her world with the fictional world. The bridge is, then, a metaphor for metaphor, for the fictional world as a metaphor of the actual world.1 In crossing it neither K. nor the reader does after all leave behind the hitherto inhabited world, but instead they bring with them the cast of mind, the desires and fears of a lifetime in their old world into the new, but with the difference that the reader has the example of K. through which to recognize this truth, whereas K. scarcely recollects his past, apart from a few fleeting memories forming a dotted sequence from a masculine life-history: the church of his childhood; the boyhood triumph of climbing the churchyard wall and planting a flag; the young man's military service; the grown man's putative wife and child (these last are especially dubious). That K. does not remember serves to estrange the world he enters so that he does not take things for granted as he might were he to remember how alike they are here to what they were there, but this means that he remains unaware of how closely his own attitudes resemble what he finds around him. The reader thus enjoys that double effect of the familiar made strange while constantly recognizing the inadvertent self-revelation which undermines K.'s heroic self-projection. But the pleasures of irony are undercut by the sense that simply to enjoy K.'s foolishness would risk aligning ourselves with the worldly-wise who never question anything. The world according to K. thus holds the reader on a

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1
Whether Kafka's fictions are allegorical or symbolic and the relations of these modes to metaphor has been much debated. I use metaphor here as a figure based on similarity.

-243-

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