Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 246
In Franz Kafka's A Report to an Academy, Kafka explores assimilation into a dominant culture. In the short story, an ape who is captured in a West African jungle and brought to Europe realizes that in order to survive and maintain some degree of freedom, he must become human. The ape begins to immediately study how to imitate his human captors. Five years later, the ape is giving a report to a panel of scientists and explains how he transformed into a human. The former ape, Rotpeter, is so thoroughly assimilated into human society that he is unable to recall his life as an ape. This story, written in 1917, can be interpreted as a commentary on assimilation of immigrants into American life. Indeed, the short story appeared in a Jewish magazine and may have been speaking specifically about the assimilation of Jewish people into dominant American society. During the late nineteenth- and early-to-mid-twentieth-century waves of immigration into the US by non-Anglo people, xenophobia ran rampant and immigrants were often socially, verbally, and physically attacked for speaking their native languages or practicing their specific ethnic cultures and traditions. Families with non-English names would often change their last names to appear more "American" in order to assimilate with greater ease into American society. This assimilation came at a great cost to the culture, traditions, and language of the assimilating immigrant. In the story, while Rotpeter may be a successful artist in human society, he has lost his roots.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 225
The virtues and shortcomings of Rotpeter’s talent as a mimic are readily apparent in the language and style of his address, which is an unconscious yet masterful parody of academic oratory. Its comic incongruities arise from the fact that he is so unaware of how empty and hollow his high-flown phrases sound. In proper deference to his learned audience, Rotpeter uses a considerable amount of metaphor, philosophical reflection, complex sentence structure, exclamation, and wit to tell his life story. Thus, he speaks of the five years that divide him from his apehood as “a time that is perhaps short when measured on the calendar, but infinitely long when galloped through as I did, accompanied in stretches by admirable men, advice, applause, and orchestral music, but basically alone, for all accompaniment kept itself—to keep to the image—far in front of the gate.”
Elsewhere, Rotpeter speaks of the drunken sailor wanting to “resolve the riddle of my soul,” of how his “ape nature raced rolling over itself out of me and away, so that my first instructor almost became apish as a result,” of his intellectual progress as a “penetration of the rays of knowledge from all sides into the awakening brain.” These rhetorical flourishes underscore both his shrewd verbal dexterity and the superficial and trivial speech of those whom he mimics so well.