R. Gray

German 390/Comp. Lit. 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

"Freud and the Literary Imagination"

Kafka's "The Judgment" as portrayal of the catastrophic "nightmare" of the Oedipus complex.

In his book Freud, Women, and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil (NY, 1988), Eli Sagan writes in the following words about the end of the Oedipus complex:

"Freud's description of the end of the male child's Oedipus complex reads like a nightmare. Panic-stricken by the notion that his desires to murder his father and sexually possess his mother will lead to severe retaliation by the father—that his father will cut off his penis—the boy renounces the most assertive (in Freud's terms, the most masculine) impulses he has ever experienced; renounces, that is, any real hope of ever becoming a man himself, in the narcissistic interest of preserving his anatomy. All possibilities of heroism are over; any prospect of rivaling the father is abandoned; childhood—and neurosis—are destined to last forever. At best, the boy identifies with the aggressor (his father) and participates wholeheartedly in repressing these oedipal wishes. At worst, the boy renounces all hopes of being a man, identifies with the mother, and presents himself to the father as a sexual object. It is a world in which there is only one father—the father—and no little boy can ever aspire to attain such an awesome office. It is the very essence of a pathogenic situation. Freud would have us believe that there is no escape from this catastrophic outcome. (69-70)

Consider the applicability of Sagan's remarks for an understanding of the "tragedy" of Kafka's "The Judgment."

Can this statement help us understand the characters of Georg Bendemann and the friend in Petersburg as the mutually exclusive, but equally demeaning, alternatives produced by the Oedipal complex?

Is there evidence in Kafka's text that speaks to the fear of castration as the motivating force behind Georg's actions?