Written in 1912, “The Judgment” is perceived as one of Kafka’s important autobiographical works with the central theme as father- son conflict with an allusion to Oedipal Complex. The story begins with the protagonist’s- Georg’s self-laudatory attitude as he claims supremacy over his unnamed friend and father. He raves about his own business success and his forthcoming marriage to a wealthy woman- Frieda Brandenfeld (a name inspired by Kafka’s love Felice Bauer) while his friend was left with failing health and business in a foreign country. He also proclaims himself as a dutiful son attending to an ailing father, describing his father as unaggressive but a giant of a man who now chooses to stay in a completely dark room even on a sunny morning.
Georg tells his father he is breaking the news of his engagement to his friend through a missive. His father initially acts senile with failing memory and doesn’t remember his friend, fitting into the description that Georg had provided the reader. But then the story takes a dramatic turn and assumes an illogical, dreamlike sequence when his father says he has been in close touch with the friend and rebukes Georg for being self-centered and not affected by the miseries of his dead mother, ailing friend and father. His father pronounced him as a devilish human being and sentenced him to death by drowning. Hypnotized, Georg actually goes and jumps off the bridge, leaving me in a stupor as I grapple to understand how few statements by the father could shatter his high self opinion completely and send him executing the pronounced sentence immediately. I could fathom him trying to argue with his father or at the most wallowing in guilt, rethinking his own perceptions. But his suicide is completely incomprehensible to me; I can only assume it is a narration of a dream.
Personally, this isn’t one of Kafka’s works that I particularly liked. Also this one doesn’t even disparage humans the way most other stories do- a characteristic I enjoy most in Kafka’s works!!
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