Letters to Felice Essay - Critical Context

Franz Kafka

Critical Context

Kafka’s letters to Felice are important in several ways. First, they are interesting to the reader as a documentation of one of the more complex and tormented romantic relationships of this century. The vicissitudes of the relationship between Kafka and Felice present a painful and compelling story.

The correspondence is more important, however, as an adjunct to Kafka’s fiction, in that it documents the kinds of psychological pressures he was experiencing while he composed some of his greatest works. In certain respects, the letters themselves could be considered great literature. A brief critical discussion of The Judgment will reveal the ways in which the letters to Felice relate to the larger context of Kafka’s literary works. The Judgment is dedicated to Felice Bauer and reveals in fictional guise the conscious and unconscious emotions that that relationship unleashed in the author. The story represents a kind of fictional commentary on the letters themselves.

The Judgment is the story of Georg Bendemann, a young man who has recently become engaged to a woman named Frieda Brandenfeld. His mother is deceased, and he has taken over the family business from his infirm father, who lives in one of the apartment’s back rooms. His life seems to be going in a positive direction, and at the beginning of the text he is writing a letter to an old friend who lives, alone and without friends, in Russia. His friend’s life there has been rather dismal, and Georg has been reluctant to tell him of his good fortune. His fiancee, Frieda, does not approve of his friend and has told Georg that he should not have become engaged if he wishes to have such friends. He finishes the letter and goes to see his father.

When Georg attempts to put the sickly old man to bed, the father...

(The entire section is 748 words.)