A Report to an Academy

by Franz Kafka

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Recently I read in an article by one of the ten thousand gossipers who vent their opinions about me in the newspapers that my ape nature is not yet entirely repressed. The proof is that when visitors come I take pleasure in pulling off my trousers to show the entry wound caused by this shot. That fellow should have each finger of his writing hand shot off one by one. So far as I am concerned, I may pull my trousers down in front of anyone I like.

When it comes to a question of the truth, every great mind discards the most subtle refinements of manners. However, if that writer were to pull down his trousers when he gets a visitor, that would certainly produce a different sight, and I’ll take it as a sign of reason that he does not do that. But then he should get off my back with his delicate sensibilities.

In the above quotes, Red Peter, or Rotpeter, speaks before a community of scientists. His aim is to convince them that he has transcended his ape nature. However, Rotpeter's comments above belie his assertions. He maintains that he has the right to pull down his pants in public, whenever he likes. Rotpeter is adamant that the "truth" of his injury should be known.

He maintains that such a wound entitles him to an important right—namely, the right to expose his suffering at the hands of humans. Rotpeter believes that this right transcends supposed human sensibilities about physical nudity. In Rotpeter's opinion, humans should readily welcome his attempts at transparency. However, he fails to take into account his human audience's appetite for brazen displays of his nakedness. Rotpeter's words actually call into question his assertion that he has "repressed" his ape nature.

I’m worried that people do not understand precisely what I mean by a way out. I use the word in its most common and fullest sense. I am deliberately not saying freedom. I do not mean this great feeling of freedom on all sides. As an ape, I perhaps recognized it, and I have met human beings who yearn for it. But as far as I am concerned, I did not demand freedom either then or today. Incidentally, among human beings people all too often are deceived by freedom.

In the above quote, Rotpeter questions the intrinsic idea of freedom. He maintains that, when he talks about a "way out," he is speaking in the "most common and fullest sense" of the term. Yet he refuses to acknowledge that he yearns for freedom from his ape nature. Rotpeter claims that he is not as deceived as the humans who crave and seek for freedom. His words are ironic because he himself is seeking the same type of freedom but is unable to admit it.

When I come home late at night from banquets, from scientific societies, or from social gatherings in someone’s home, a small half-trained female chimpanzee is waiting for me, and I take my pleasure with her the way apes do. During the day I don’t want to see her, for she has in her gaze the madness of a bewildered trained animal. I’m the only one who recognizes that, and I cannot bear it.

Rotpeter's inner torment is also clear in the above quote. In seeking a "way out," he seeks freedom from his animal/ape nature. He is loath to admit, however, that he can never truly transcend this nature.

So, he takes his pleasure with a female chimpanzee at home, in the evenings, far away from the judgment of...

(This entire section contains 701 words.)

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human eyes. In the light of day, however, he is ashamed of his capitulation to his animal nature. In his mind, Rotpeter understands that the "madness of a bewildered trained animal" is his own as well. This is why he does not seek freedom; he knows that it would be a futile quest.

In this light, Rotpeter's attempts to ingratiate himself to his human audience is understandable. Bereft of true freedom, he loudly denigrates the ape nature and proclaims his "otherness": it's the only "way out" open to him to salve his wounded dignity.