Study Help Essay Questions


1. What did Kafka try to express through the metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa?

2. Is Samsa partly to blame for having incurred his fate?

3. Samsa's metamorphosis goes hand in hand with a description of the world around him as he sees it in his new state. Give some specific illustrations of this.

4. The subject of the "earthly nourishment" and the "heavenly nourishment" plays a decisive role in several of Kafka's short stories. Which are the stories and how does Kafka deal with this subject in each of them?

5. In your view, does Kafka consider the hunger artist as one whose art is too advanced and too pore for the crude audience to appreciate, or does he finally call the hunger artist an arrogant show-off who does not have stamina enough to survive?

6. "A Country Doctor" has generally been said to contain the most clearly surreal elements of all of Kafka's stories. Do you agree with this view and, if so, what in specific would you say is typical of Kafka's surreal dream world?

7. In which sense is "A Country Doctor" the analysis of the spiritual disease of our age?

8. Explain why "The judgment" is commonly regarded as the clearest reflection of Kafka's complex relationship with his father.

9. Discuss the differences between the reigns of the Old Commandant and the New Commandant in "The Penal Colony."

10. What do the two commandants symbolize in a religious and/ or political sense? Do you have the impression that Kafka favors one of the two against the other and, if so, how would you support your viewpoint?

11. What are the chief elements of "The Hunter Gracchus" that make this story such a perfect parable of human alienation as it results from the loss of orientation?

12. Discuss the idea behind the "piecemeal technique" of construction as employed by the workers on the great wall of China.

13. What are the political ideas of "The Great Wall of China"?

14. Discuss the fate of the ape and his mate in "A Report to an Academy" in terms of his relative success and contentment versus her failure to achieve these.

15. What is the central theme of "Josephine the Singer"? Compare it to the same theme in "A Hunger Artist."

16. Explain why symbols and parables are better suited to deal with Kafka's main themes than are metaphors and similes.

17. What are the traits in Kafka's thinking that one could label "existentialist"?

18. Why is it irrelevant and meaningless to approach Kafka's writings with the attitude of explaining them rationally?

19. Why is the use of the term "Kafkaesque" dangerous for a serious and meaningful appraisal of Kafka?

20. Discuss whether or not Kafka may be called a religious writer.