Kafka; Rilke; Akhmatova; Lorca; Xun; Mahfouz

1) Gregor seemed to only be close to his sister. While his mother appeared to also love her son, the fact that she was physically frail prevented her from being as close to her son as she might have been, particularly after his transformation. After Gregor showed his family that he was no longer human (and no longer fit to work either), his father brandished a cane and a newspaper and used them to force Gregor back into his room. Afterwards, when Gregor caused his mother to have a serious health concern related to a shocking gesture he made towards her, father attacked Gregor with the apples. This attack in return nearly led to Gregor’s own demise. Later, as the story goes on, Gregor is no longer cared for as he once was by his sister and he begins to stop eating as a result of his neglect. In the end, Gregor is holding his family back from being prosperous and the whole family clearly looks upon him as a burden. When this has become abundantly clear, Gregor dies and the family is relieved to be able to go on living a normal life again.

2) When Gregor first revealed himself after his transformation, he was surprised to see his weak and inhibited father standing before him with such authority as to poke and prod him back into the room. Gregor’s inability to work and provide put the responsibility on his father to again work. I really see this as the central theme throughout the book. My reasoning is that prior to the industrial revolution, the patriarchal figure within the family was probably the one with the most authority and prestige within the family. As Gregor, the son, became the central breadwinner of the family when he began to work and support the family, his father was relegated to an almost expired existence in which he could barely muster himself out of bed. As Gregor is no longer working and bringing home the bacon, his father again becomes the pivotal figure within the household and Gregor is resorted to being the invalid. This is of course the other metamorphoses of the story.

3) I believe Requiem as a political protest was quite effective, albeit the fact that it was not published until much later after the worst of Josef Stalin’s purges were over and new political leadership took hold. Part of the problem I believe with the purges, and any society which has dealt with a treacherous leader in its past, is that people need the passage of time before they can again feel like it is safe to protest against their oppression. As ferocious as Stalin’s purges were, society was left in a state of terror and shock for at least a generation. When Akhamotova’s message began to spread without repercussions, the effect must have been one to open up old wounds of people who have suffered dearly. All many people were left with questions, to which they naturally sought answers. Afterwards, people would expect actions to be taken to ensure that nothing like a murderous, tyrannical dictator and a system of terror could never happen again. In the case of the former Soviet Union, as quality of life began to suffer under a bankrupt system, and all these emotions described above became fully manifest, permanent reform came into being under the leadership of Gorbachev. The fact that this leader came about, as opposed to another one like Stalin, in my opinion can be directly attributed to Akhmatova and others just like her that were driven to no longer accept poor and unfortunate circumstances the rest of their lives.

4) I would interpret the underlying meaning to be one of deep reverence for the glory which was so emblematic of the ordinary life in ancient Greco-Roman times, where all of the gods and men under Zeus thrived. It is a nostalgic reference, probably even a Neo-Romanticism boast. In this context, the meaning of the phrase “You must change your life,” quite literally means that either an individual or society can benefit from big ideas and change.

3 thoughts on “Kafka; Rilke; Akhmatova; Lorca; Xun; Mahfouz

  1. Victoria Adams

    I think it was very true that during the industrial revolution, that not many could find work, and those that did, it was little pay and long hours. Therefore it was not uncommon for the kids to find whatever jobs they could. I wonder that if dads really did feel belittled when their kids worked and provided more for the families than they did.

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  2. bdfleagle

    Enjoyed your answers, especially number 2 concerning Gregor’s father and that of Akhmatova. I think it would be interesting to ask the question, “Do the Russian people really have an attitude of ‘never again’? Or is that a Western mindset?” Perhaps, (and I’m only speculating) they have a more “that is life” approach. After all until now, the Russian people have not known freedom and there is some reason to believe their comfort level is not, even after twenty years, easy with it. After all, they don’t mind Putin, and he is known to be very dictatorial minded leader, yet he is “loved”. Makes one think…

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