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In Judgment is a short story written by Franz Kafka, about the relationship between a father and his son. This relationship corresponds to Freudians deep Oedipus conflict. After the conflict between the narrator (Georg) and his father, the narrator thought the right thing to do in terms of morality is to commit suicide towards the end of the story. Georg had experienced many events that compelled him to end his life. According to Freudian's psychology, it was Georg's super-ego that drove the narrator to his death.
Georg's friend was been living in Russia for three years and Georg did not want to tell his friend about the success he was having business and his engagement with Miss Frieda Brandenfeld. Frieda was a girl from a wealthy family and she wanted to invite Georg's friend to their wedding. But Georg states that speaking the truth, would indicate implicitly to the friend that his own life is not successful, that only his friends had understood how to succeed in life, and that "he was an overgrown schoolboy," (Kafka 38). Georg felt that if he was a good friend Georg's happiness of getting engaged should make his friend happy. George was hiding this secret from his friend until it was the right time to send the engagement letter to his friend. Georg went to his father and told him that he is going to send the letter to his friend. His father responded "I expect you meant to say that earlier. It doesn't fit in hereâ€¦" (Kafka 49).His father gets outraged of how Georg is betraying his friend by informing about his engagement this late. Georg being reluctant to speak the truth was one of the mistakes that may have contributed to his suicidal.
Georg felt it was his responsibility to supervise the changing of his father's underwear. He believed "[old] age demands to be treated with considerationâ€¦" (Kafka 44). Georg was annoyed of his father but still felt that his father might require his help. So "[he] took his father to bed in his armsâ€¦" (Kafka 45). Georg tried to help his father by providing him with comfort and helped tuck him in bed. Georg was trying to help, but according to the father's point of view he did not see it this way. Instead Georg's father felt he is being displaced and ultimately replaced by his own son. Georg was ready to assume a parental role towards the old man. He assumed that he had authority over his father and tried to imitate the role of his father. "However, towards the end of the story, his father reacts against Georg, accuses him for betraying his friend and disgracing the memory of his mother, sentences him to death," (Floyd, "Kafka's "The Judgment": Psychoanalysis and Deconstruction" ). Georg, in attempt to listen to his super-ego decided to take his father's advice and commits suicide. Possessing authoritative power over his father caused Georg to feel tremendous amount of guilt causing him to punish himself by drowning.
Every father has their favorite child other than their own son and they tend to not tell their son because the son will get jealous and feel less appreciated. The father went ahead and told Georg "[the friend] would have been a son after [the father's] own heartâ€¦" (Kafka 46). The father would choose Georg's friend rather than him because Georg's friend is the powerless child, possessing all the weak, negative aspect unlike Georg. The father also states "the death of [Georg's mother] has affected me much more than it has youâ€¦" (Kafka 43). Using Freudian's psychology, for Georg, Frieda is a substitute for his mother as a sexual object. This made it sickening for the father saying "she hoicked up her skirt like thisâ€¦ the disgusting slut," (Kafka 47). The father was disappointed in Georg of how easily he found a way to replace his mother with Frieda. Georg quickly ended his mourning as he found a way to cope with it through Frieda while the father was still lonely and continued to struggle and mourn. The guilt associated with Georg thinking of his own mother as a sexual object drove him to suicide.
The Oedipus conflict is a term used to describe the boy's feeling of admiration for his mother and jealously and rage towards his father. This is the conflict that occurs between Georg and his father. "[Georg] leaving his room, crossed the little passage to his father's room, in which he hadn't set foot for some monthsâ€¦" (Kafka 41). The father might have interpreted that Georg was ignoring his father. This declared that Georg showed no respect towards his father. "His father sat by the window in a corner decorated with various mementoes of Georg's late mother," (Kafka 42). Georg's father was having a tough time with Georg's mother passing away. When Georg came up to him and asked about sending the letter about his engagement to his friend in Russia, Georg's father became angry. The father gets outraged that Georg would replace his mother with Frieda saying that "[Georg] disgraced the memory of [his] mother, betrayed [his] friend, and trussed [his] father up in bed," (Kafka 47). The father felt Georg did not respect or care for him in a way a son should. Georg's rebellious behavior includes neglecting his father and whenever Georg starts a conversation with him, it ends up being an argument.
During the argument between Georg and his father, Georg entered the two stages of the psyche. When his father was scolding him, Georg becomes scared and "stood in a corner, as far away from his father as he could get" (Kafka 47). This is the ego entering Georg's head, saying that the father is much stronger than him. His father was like a spy, secretly sending letters to the friend in Russia about Georg's engagement. Georg started to lose his innocence when his father confirmed that he was play-acting. The id was taking over Georg's mind saying "Now he's going to lean forwardâ€¦ I wish he would fall down and break into little pieces!" (Kafka 48). His father snatched the id away from him and brought back the ego by saying "You think you have enough strength to come hereâ€¦You are mistaken! I am still by far the stronger of us," (Kafka 48). After the father sentenced him to death, Georg realized the tension he had created, caused a drift in the relationship with his father. Georg felt he was being rebellious towards his father, which made him feel guilty causing him to drown himself.
George committed suicide due to his super-ego which usually drives unexplainable actions to the psyche. The psyche is the wholeness of the human mind depicting the conscious and the unconscious. Freud believed the psyche consisted of three components. They were the id, ego and the super-ego. George already encountered the id and the ego. To resolve the conflict, Georg identifies with his father. It is at this point that the super-ego is formed. Now he encounters the super-ego where he steps away from reality and steps into morality. It is not about life and death anymore, instead it was about what is right and wrong. All these conflicts were created because of Georg and Georg felt guilty for creating tension in the relationship with his father and his friends. So he remembered the last words of his father which was "I sentence you to death by drowning!" (Kafka 49). In Georg's mind, he felt the right way to resolve this conflict was to take his own life by listening to his father.
George failed to show any emotional attachment or even respect towards his father by neglecting, cursing, and always being possessed with having authoritative power over his father. Georg also discontinued ties with his friend as he failed to update his friend about his life and refused to invite him to their wedding. His father did not appreciate Georg's interpretation of his mother as a sexual object. All these scenarios convinced him that there is no purpose for him to live anymore. In Georg's view, committing suicide is the only means of undoing the rebellious and disrespectful behavior he engaged in early in his life. Therefore, it is Georg's super-ego that compels the narrator to sink his soul into the water.
Works Cited List
Esch, James. "Discussing "The Judgment" by Franz Kafka." Weblog entry. Notearama we're talking about literature. Dec 19, 2013. Jan 10, 2013. <http://notearama.blogspot.ca/2012/12/discussing-judgment-by-franz-kafka.html>
Floyd, Zen. "Kafka's"The Judgment": Psychoanalysis and Deconstruction." Weblog entry. Cultural Studies and Literature Blog. Aug 2, 2009. Jan 10, 2013. <http://zenfloyd.blogspot.ca/2009/08/kafkas-judgment-psychoanalysis.html>
"Franz Kafka's Judgement." 123HelpMe.com. 08 Jan 2013.
Kafka, Franz. In Judgment. Arkadia: Max Brod, 1913. Print.
Kendra Cherry. "What Is an Oedipal Complex?" About Psychology. Jan 10, 2013.