The story The Judgment, written by Franz Kafka was said to be one of his breakthrough stories that sparked his story writing career. While most of Kafka’s stories were thought to be closely related to certain aspects of his life, The Judgment is thought to closely represent the conflicting relationship between Kafka and his father and the turmoil that Kafka experienced growing up as a result of his crude-minded father. This relationship that Kafka had with his own father is reflected in The Judgment, a story between a young man named Georg Bendemann and his father Bendemann senior.
Bendemann senior appears to be a very controlling and business orientated person who has spent most of his life working to build his business and taking care of his wife and son. After the death of his wife, Bendemann senior admits that things are not the same as they use to be. His health is deteriorating and he has left his business, which he was highly devoted to before to his son Georg Bendemann. George is a young middle aged man who is in the midsts of taking over his father’s business and has taken to watching over his father because of his deteriorating health.
While Georg has plenty to look forward to; a booming business, a new fiance and moving into a new home, a strange feeling comes over him when he is writing to announce his engagement to a long time friend who has moved to St. Petersburg Russia. This uncanny feeling that presides over him is one that he is unsure of how to go about, thus he goes to his father for advice on what to say to his friend who has not been doing as well as Georg has. The scene that occurs in Bendemann’s senior’s room on a random Sunday morning is reflective of the relationship that Georg and his father have created since childhood .
Depending how interpreted- either from the father’s side or the son’s side- can help understand what influenced Georg’s actions after his father condemns him to death. The reactions from both the father and son and the conflict between the two is a result of an inferiority complex Georg has attained as a result of the way Bendemann senior has treated Georg from a young age. The ultimate affect that this father and son have on each other are exposed on that day, which ends in George committing suicide The specific instances that occur when Georg goes to see his father in his dark room can be seen as a power struggle between father and son.
When Georg first enters his father’s room he tells his father that he has written a letter to announce his engagement to his friend in St. Petersburg but is unsure of whether or not he will send it to his friend in consideration for his feelings. Bendemann senior becomes frustrated and tells Georg that since his mother’s death things have not been the same, and then goes on to criticize Georg in many aspects of his life.
From his choice in bride to how he been a coward towards his friend in Russia and not kept him updated about what is going on in his life, admitting that he has been writing to his friend to keep him updated. From Bendmanns seniors point of view Georg has never fully be able to grow up and make decisions on his own, hence why he comes to his father for his approval before he sends the letter. Further supporting Bendmann senior’s perception of his son is the fact that he has been keeping in touch with his friend from Russia.
Writing him letters and keeping him up to date about matters at home, knowing or rather believing that his son is incapable of doing so. Throughout this whole scene Georg is trying his best to comply and deal with his aging father. When Georg tries to tuck his father into bed he resists and says that he is trying to smother him. When looking at this situation from Bendemanns senior’s point of view it is as if he believes his son has not grown into an adult and has escaped from the reality of growing up, claiming that “How long you hesitated before your time was ripe.
Mother has to die; she couldn’t love until that happy day! ” (Pg 9). He believes his son is incapable of taking over his business that he worked so hard to build, further criticizing his choice in his fiance calling her a floozy. An explanation for Bendmenns senior’s reactions could be one of two things. Either Georg’s father is having a hard time accepting the fact that his son is growing up and essentially taking over his business and the position that he once had.
Or that he has always been resentful towards Georg since childhood, treating him poorly and when his wife passes it is even more apparent. Either explanation would do justice when understanding how Bendemenn senior has affected Georg’s development and how his treatment of his son throughout his how life has manifested into a negative, almost weak aspect of Georg’s personality when he is an adult. The relationship that Georg and his father have is an interesting relationship because of the affect that the two have on each other.
While Georg highly aggravates his father, because of his belief that his son being incapable of doing the right thing, this in turn creates a sense of guilt in Georg. A sense of guilt which surfaces later in his life when he is trying to become a man, get married, and have business. Georg’s feelings manifest later in life though suffering, insecurity, and eventually death. What Georg should do is grow up and stand firm to his father that he is taking over the business and that he needs to stay out of his relationship with his friend in Russia and keeps his opinions about his wife to himself.
Unfortunately certain aspects of this father son relationship have developed into Georg’s feelings of inferiority, which have been this way for a while make it difficult for Georg to stand up to his father let alone talk to him. Those who experience feelings of inferiority are believe that it can sometimes start from childhood, weather they were not loved enough or were always degraded from their parental figures growing up. As a result Georg feels the need to seek his father’s approval in menial matters such as whether or not he should send this letter.
It is interesting how Georg reacts to his father who constantly believes he is incapable of making his own decisions. From Georg’s point of view he believes that he must help his aging father, take over the business and have a wife because that is what is expected from him. Georg is kind to his father, tucks him in, asks for his opinion on matters he sees important and was even willing to let him move in with them after his marriage. Although his actions are subconscious to Georg himself, these actions are coming from a place where Georg feels the need to gain approval from his father.
These feelings of approval steam from his father’s treatment of him as a child. Another result of this complex would be the need to overcompensate which he is doing so by taking care of his sick father and putting up with his aggressive and hurtful words. Georg is even going as far as letting his father live with him and his fiance so he is not alone. The fact that Georg has taken to not being honest with his “good friend” in St. Petersburg further supports how his feelings of inadequacy have caused him to retreat from reality and display almost anti social behaviors.
Although the Judgment is a short story a lot can be implied from this psychological mind-twister. The relationship between Georg and Bendemann senior is a complex one which reaches its peak on that Sunday afternoon in his father’s room. When interpreting the story from Georg’s side he is trying to spare the feelings of his friend in Russia, which is why he doesn’t keep him completely up to date. He appears to care for his father and take care of him and over the business in a time of his ailing health.
Looking at this story from the father’s side, he believes his son to be immature and incapable of growing up and making the right choices. He believes that Georg just wants to take over the business and is around just because he is still alive. Interestingly how these two act towards each other is a result of the relationship that they have developed since Georg’s youth. Bendemenns senior’s treatment of his son; harsh criticism and constantly degrading his worth have manifested into Georg’s personality and certain motivations in life.
His feelings of insecurity and his constant struggle to gain approval from his father has resulted in him feeling inferior to his father, thus taking everything he says literal. When Georg’s father condemns him to death, he utters “I have always loved you” before jumping off the bridge. As a result of his feelings of inferiority and never being able to satisfy or prove his father right, he says I have always loved you because even though it did not appear that way because his father made it difficult for him to prove it, he still loved his father.
The extent of power that this father and son have on each other is displayed through Bendemann senior’s aggressiveness and belief that his son is inadequate. In turn this has had a negative effect on the development of Georg’s personality and his life as an adult. Georg finally takes his father’s words literally and kills himself as a result of the suffering and torment his father has instilled in him throughout the years.
References Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis and other stories. (Mineola, N. Y. Dover Publications. 1996)