Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 293
Kafka’s 1915 story, The Metamorphosis, begins: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.”
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Published in German in 1919, Kafka wrote The Penal Colony in 1914. Some see a reflection of trench warfare in this story about law and punishment told by a traveling anthropologist.
Kafka wrote the The Blue Octavo Notebooks while spending a happy vacation with his favorite sister, Ottla. This work is a book of proverbs, reflections, and literary sketches.
Written in 1922 but not published until 1926, The Castle tells the tale of a surveyor (K.) who answers a work summons. He arrives at the town below the Castle but the town officials do not know what he is talking about. K. tries to catch the attention of a Castle official named Klamm but fails.
Kafka agreed to the publication of the The Hunger Artist in 1924 as he was dying. The story is about a circus entertainer whose trick is to not eat. He sits in a cage and fasts alongside the other attractions.
There are some striking echoes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The poem is the tale of a sailor who unthinkingly shoots down an Albatross–an omen of good luck—and suffers cosmic punishment as a result.
Kafka learned how to write about courts and the law from reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens published in book form in 1853. The book criticizes the English court system through an account of those involved with the never ending suit of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce.
The greatest criminal psychology thriller is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This 1866 novel concerns the tale of Raskolnikov’s crime of murder. This work is another influence on The Trial.