Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works

Introduction

Literature is an artistic piece of work used to creatively pass information/ideas to people in society. Since the authors of these pieces of work are members of the society, the ideas/information found in the latter are usually a reflection of the day to day happenings in the society; literature is the society’s mirror. Through literature, a reader gets an insight into a community’s way of life/culture.

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From the descriptions given in the literature, one is able to read, learn, understand, compare and contrast a given community’s culture as depicted in the piece of literature. For example, in the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, we get an insight into Gregor’s family which represents the larger society. By reading the book, it is evident that respect for a man comes with working. Gregor seems to be seen as useful in his family when he is the breadwinner and is working hard to pay off his father’s debts.

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However, as soon as tragedy comes knocking and he turns into a bug, he is considered useless. He is locked in his room to hide his parent’s shame when the guests are around (Kafka, 2008). This enlightens us on this community’s values since it is evident that Gregor’s family’s only business with him is the money he brings home and not his well-being. It also depicts the injustices that Gregory faces having to work to cater to the needs of everyone in the family and even more demanding, pay off his father’s debts, and yet when he turns into an insect, they all find themselves secure jobs and forget about his existence. In Good Country People by Flannery O’Connor, we meet Hulda who despite being called Joy, is not happy and finally ends up changing her name to Hulda.

To begin with, she is fatherless, has a heart condition, and has a wooden leg caused by an accident in her childhood making her believe in nothing but her education which she guards jealously. Hulda apparently is using her education as a gate pass to pride in the society, so much that she believes she needs nobody else’s assistance in life. As if not enough misery, Hulda who thinks she is above everyone in the society gets to meet Manly Pointer who conquers her pride by getting away with her wooden leg.

This makes the title of the book Good Country People ironic since the book is mostly characterized by bad things and people such as Manly Pointer and the misfortunes in Hulda’s life (Bloom, 2009). Despite the fact that he poses as a Bible Salesman, Manly Pointer turns out to be wicked since what he carries is not a Bible but a flask of whisky, obscene cards, and a birth control device. His wickedness is finally exposed as he gets away with Hulda’s artificial leg.

Through literature, one is able to know about the settings or set-ups in a particular community. For example, Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People is written in a rural setting and openly shows what exists in the society we live in, no one is perfect and you cannot have everything in life. Hulga who comes from a well-off family has access to monetary needs but unfortunately has never known happiness in her life.

Therefore, despite the fact that she comes from a rich family, has a Ph.D. in philosophy and her name signifies happiness, she has no joy in life and is bloated, rude and squint-eyed’ and the expression on her face is that of constant outrage (Bloom, 2009). She struggles to be accepted in society and seemingly wants people dancing to her tune. It is said that she is rude to both her mother and Mrs. Freeman.

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The language used in literature helps in giving a broader picture to the reader of the lifestyle and environment in which people are living in the community. For example, one is able to determine the social lifestyle of a people, their history, or even social status in the community by looking at the language used in the piece of work. Pidgin English, for instance, is used by the lower class people in Nigeria. Therefore, the use of Pidgin English in literature could depict a low-class society. Hulda’s speech is said to be very eloquent and this of course is a result of her good educational background. This with no question shows that she is from a rich background.

Literature brings into the picture the relationships that exist among people in society. For example, how family members relate amongst one another and how they relate with those people around them. Through literature one is able to read and understand how people relate in one community and therefore compare and contrast with those of his or her community. One gets to read and get an insight into the virtues and vices that exist in communities and the people’s attitudes and perceptions towards them. In Good Country People by Flannery O’Connor, we come across various characters that depict vices and virtues evident in today’s society.

These characters help in bringing out aspects that are seen in people’s day to day life in the community. We see Hulda who believes in nothing and is using her education to step on people’s feet and as a gate pass to be accepted as she is in society. She is oblivious and blind to her environment and what is happening around her and wears the know -it –all’ attitude. She is rude to even her mother and Mrs. Freeman and to her life has no meaning. She even does not see a problem when she is rude to Mrs. Freeman since according to her, she believes in nothing and therefore does not need to be polite at all. To her life is meaningless.

Therefore, we get an insight into a family with a single parent and a daughter. The family is financially stable but unfortunately not happy as Mrs.Hopewell, as her name suggests still keeps hoping that one day things will be well for her daughter. Unfortunately for her, things do not end up well as she is robbed of both her happiness and her daughter’s happiness by Manly Pointer. Hulda’s life is really now meaningless, rotten as depicted by the evil-smelling onion pulled up by Mrs. Freeman (page 184).

In the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, we come into contact with Gregor’s family whereby he is subdued to injustices since he has to work hard in order to provide for his parents and sister and pay off his father’s debts (Kafka, 2008). Then, it was a close-knit family.However, when he wakes up as a bug, then he faces rejection, neglect, separation, and abuse from his family. All that matters to them then is how to continue sustaining themselves and not his current state of health. Finally, to avoid the loss of more things like rent from the lodgers, his father hurts him in the process and he dies. This gives us a picture of the family’s perception of Gregor; a provider and nothing more.

Literature reflects the conditions under which communities exist. Through literature, a reader gets enlightened with the various conditions and circumstances existing in the society and therefore compares and contrasts the conditions with those of his or her societies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, literature reflects communities. Through literature, we get to know about a community’s culture, language, setting, beliefs, values, and relationships that exist in the community. It gives us an opportunity to compare and contrast our society’s values and vices and consequently borrow the good values and learn from the vices in order to avoid having them occur in our society in the future. Therefore, literature whether fictional or real plays a very important role in society.

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References

Bloom, H. (2009). Flannery O’Connor: Bloom’s modern critical views. 2nd Ed. New York: InfoBase Publishing.

Kafka, F. (2008). Metamorphosis. New York: Aventura Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, May 6). Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/communities-reflected-in-kafkas-and-oconnors-works/

Work Cited

"Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works." StudyCorgi, 6 May 2021, studycorgi.com/communities-reflected-in-kafkas-and-oconnors-works/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works." May 6, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/communities-reflected-in-kafkas-and-oconnors-works/.


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StudyCorgi. "Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works." May 6, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/communities-reflected-in-kafkas-and-oconnors-works/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works." May 6, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/communities-reflected-in-kafkas-and-oconnors-works/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Communities Reflected in Kafka’s and O’Connor’s Works'. 6 May.

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