Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Josef vejk

Josef vejk (YOH-sehf shvayk), a Czech recruited to serve in the Austrian army during World War I. vejk’s military experience is a series of mishaps that repeatedly land him in jail, yet vejk avoids serious punishment, even execution, through the same bizarre behaviors that get him into trouble. vejk is a deceptively complex character, appearing both imbecilic and ingenious, as well as both honest and deceitful. When confronted by bureaucratic red tape and the harsh, often unreasonable conditions in the army, vejk foils the establishment. Sometimes he makes fools of authorities by complying with irrational demands and carrying out instructions to the letter. Another of his ploys is to digress into a stream of disjointed anecdotes that often enrage his superior officers or convince them he is a fool. He seems always to know what tactic to employ each time he encounters difficulty, when to proclaim his innocence, no matter how guilty he may be, and when to admit guilt, no matter how innocent he may be. He frequently attributes his mishaps to bad luck. Throughout his ordeals, he maintains a cheerful attitude that ultimately disarms his oppressors. As a result, vejk avoids punishment and delays his progress to the battlefields on the eastern front. At times, vejk appears honest to a fault, yet he will lie and deceive others in carrying out his duties as batman (military gofer) for his assigned superior. vejk survives the hostility of the Austrians toward Czech soldiers, avoids combat, and protects others. The author provides little physical description of the...

(The entire section is 663 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Doleel, Lubomír. “The Road of History and the Detours of the Good Soldier.” In Language and Literary Theory: In Honor of Ladislav Matejko, edited by Benjamin A. Stoltz. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984. An accessible example of postmodernist scholarship, which discusses the character vejk as inhabiting “ludic” space between obligation and punishment. Although the article employs a few complex literary terms, it is a highly readable and astute analysis of the character.

Goetz-Stankiewicz, Marketa. “Kafka and Haek—Reflections on a Meeting in the House of Fiction.” In Language and Literary Theory: In Honor of Ladislav Matejko, edited by Benjamin A. Stoltz. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984. A comparison of the two authors, focusing on the differences in their literary themes. The essay also provides a valuable discussion of Haek’s influences on later writers.

Parrott, Cecil. The Bad Bohemian: A Life of Jaroslav Haek. London: Bodley Head, 1978. A biography by the English translator of the 1973 edition that examines parallels between Haek’s life and The Good Soldier vejk.

Parrott, Cecil. Jaroslav Haek. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1982. A comprehensive survey of the historical background of the work, Haek’s political activities and literary career, and the continuing critical controversy about the novel. Includes a character analysis and discussion of structure and themes.

Souková, Milada. A Literary Satellite: Czechoslovak-Russian Literary Relations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970. Examines Russian and Czechoslovakian responses to the novel as literary propaganda and the debate over whether vejk is a suitable character to represent the Czech military.