Saturday, April 7, 2012

'The Trial' by Franz Kafka and 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens

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Literature’s Great Historical Value

The novels, 'The Trial' by Franz Kafka and 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens depict the period of the nineteenth century. Although both books are different in nature each are accurate in illustrating the hardships people went through in this period. Each of these stories does an excellent job of portraying the troubles and experiences of the nineteenth century, so the literature should be able to be referenced as primary resources in history, the following paragraphs will go into detail on the ways in which these authors tie the storylines with real life historical facts.

The Novel 'The Trial' by Franz Kafka is about a man named Josef K. that goes through a lengthy trial given by an unusual court system, which never reveals what he is being charged with or whether he is guilty or not. The entire story is about the different tribulations he goes through to try to bring his case to a rest. This book illustrates a couple different aspects of the nineteenth century in which seem to be quite accurate. These aspects the book covers are the image of the ‘new woman’ as well as the corruption of the legal system in the 1th century, he also is accurate with the social conditions of this time. The ideal ‘new woman’ image as stated in lectures was mainly in Germany and Britain. Kafka is a German writer, and it seems as though the story takes place in Germany, also in lectures Professor Frankel explained the image of ‘new woman’ as more independent, wearing short skirts, partying, high stockings, and promiscuous (Frankel, lecture). In 'The Trial' Kafka implies these personalities and traits with the women characters in his book.

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One character named Fraulein Burstner was a woman who lived down the hall from K. Fraulein Burstner, barely new K when she first entered the novel, she was described as a typist who “usually left for work quite early and came home quite late (Kafka)” Also one night when Fraulein had arrived home late, she and K began talking as K wanted to apologize for using her room earlier that morning, merely a half hour he had past before he had held her hand, kissed her hand, her lips, her forehead as well as a long kiss on her neck. Fraulein also explained in the story when she first heard from K about his case that she would soon be starting as a secretary at a law firm. Fraulein is the perfect example of the ‘new woman’ with her job, her independence, and her sexuality. Another example of Fraulein Burnster’s independence was while talking with K. a knock at the door startled them both, with it being so late, K offered to explain to Frau the owner of the boardinghouse why they were together so late in the evening but Fraulin kindly replied

'I appreciate your suggestions, but I can’t accept them. I can take full responsibility for what happens in my room and face anyone. I’m surprised you don’t realize the insult to me implicit in your suggestions, along, of course, with your good intentions, which I certainly recognize' (Kantz).

Another woman character in the novel is the woman in the apartment of where K’s trial took place; she’s a court official’s wife. She also portrayed the ‘new woman’ image. Within minutes of meeting K. she told him “you have beautiful dark eyes.” Which brought K to believe “she’s offering herself to me; she’s depraved like everyone else around here, she’s had here fill of court officials, which is understandable so she accosts any stranger who comes along with a compliment about his eyes.” K with this thought began to rise but she grabbed his hand told him he judged her wrong and to stay. K did so only to be confirmed on his thoughts when a young gentleman came in to take the woman to the examining magistrate. The man picked her up and ran of with her over his shoulder, K ran along side ready to grab him but the woman said “It’s no use, the examining magistrate has sent for me, I can’t go with you, this little monster” she then paused and caressed the mans face and said “this little monster won’t let me go.” K in reply yelled “and you don’t want to be freed.

A young woman in the story named Leni was Kafka’s third ‘new woman’ character. She was Josef K’s Lawyers maid (also mistress.) She first met K when he came to the lawyer’s house with his uncle to discuss his trial, not even ten minutes after meeting K did Leni make a pass at him by throwing a plate against the wall to get K to come to her. Then at one point in their conversation K put his arm around her and brought her to him, she then leaned on him, she also asked him questions about whether she pleased him, or if he had a sweetheart, all very forward questions that only a woman of the times would be asking.

Another image of the ‘new woman’ was the image of the efficient housewife. Kafka brought this into the story when K was in the apartment of where his first trial was to take place, and he was looking for the room in which it was. When K. looked into the rooms that most were open K saw women that were holding babies in one arm and cooking with the other. This shows the woman utilizing her skills and getting two things done at once.

Kafka exposes the social conditions of the nineteenth century in a few instances in the book. One instance is when K. is in the apartment where his trials take place. K walks into the apartment and immediately sees children everywhere running and playing, inside the rooms, which were small and only had one window, he saw women cooking and taking care of the children, sick people in the beds, and just overcrowding in general. This is a good reference to the times of the nineteenth century, in lectures from class the social living conditions of this time were overcrowding, with low ventilation, which Kafka also covers, and the spread of disease. In the chapter where K. enters the attic where the court offices are located Kafka reinforces the social conditions of the time with the low ventilation system they have. At one point K must sit down because of his dizziness from lack of Oxygen. A woman who brought him the chair to sit down in explains, “As far as the air is concerned, on days when the traffic of involved parties is heavy you can hardly breathe, and that’s almost daily.”

In the other novel Charles Dickens the author of 'Hard Times' focused on Industrialization. 'Hard Times' is about a little girl named Sissy that moved from her low class level circus life to live with a middle class family, the Gradgrinds. It has many different characters all symbolizing lives of the people in the 1th century. 'Hard Times' is broken down into three books. The story revolves around the Gradgrinds, and a man named Bounderby, a rich factory owner. The story takes place in Coketown, England.

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and died 1870; he lived in the times that this book is about. He experienced the industrial revolution himself. Not only did he live in England where the story takes place, but also when he was only twelve his father a government clerk went to prison for his debt, Charles got sent to a blacking warehouse to work for a brief period. Considering he is a man of those times his book resembles that of an English town and people in the nineteen century. Novel in terms is a voice, a voice of the working class during the industrial revolution.

Dickens separate his characters into four classes the vanishing upper classes, the rising middle class, the oppressed but struggling laboring class, and roaming people. Mrs. Sparsit represented the upper class she was Mr. Bounderby’s housekeeper. She’s a resentful woman; she hates Bounderby and anyone else that doesn’t have the background she has.

The middle class was constructed of Josiah Bounderby who is a prosperous factory owner, The Gradgrinds including Mr. Gadgrind and his 5 children, and Stephen Blackpool. Mr. Bounderby was a very loud prejudiced man. He thinks of his workers in the factories not as people but as “hands.” This is the way the laboring class was treated in the nineteenth century. They worked long fourteen-hour days, with few holidays, extremely low wages, and unhealthy working conditions. Bounderby is friends with Thomas Gradgrind. Thomas Gradgrind is a retired merchant that now has a school of facts he has five children two of whom are main characters in the story, Tom and Louisa. Mr. Gradgrind takes in a little girl name Sissy Jupe in the beginning of the book. Her father, who is a circus clown, represents the roaming people or nomadic group if you will. Her father abandons Sissy and Gradgrind takes her in and tries to educate her in his school of “Facts” but Sissy isn’t able to because she is a creation of a different background. With this Charles Dickens further separated the social classes in that he literally put them on separate levels they are two different creatures of nature. Gradgrind’s son Tom was a product of the Industrial Revolution in that he got caught up in the nightlife of the city with his gambling, drinking, and smoking.

Stephen Blackpool was the voice of the working class; he was a worker in Bounderby’s factory. Blackpool was a power-loom weaver, which the textile industry in the nineteenth century was where industrialization began and then expanded quickly in the first years of the revolution. It seems as though Dickens only had one voice or character for the working class to signify how the working class didn’t have rights and were just sort of pushed in the background during these times, and Stephen was the person to stand and be their voice.

A little girl named Sissy Jupe mainly represented Dickens lowest class, the circus people. Her and her father lived in a house with the many other circus people. Dickens was accurate in placing them, all in the same house, considering “Entire families lived in single rooms” during the industrial revolution. This class’s purpose was to make people happy.

Another significant part of the story to industrialization is the town these people live in. The cities of industrialization in the nineteenth century were “drab places, blackened with heavy soot of the early coal age, settling alike on the mills and the worker’s quarters, which were dark at best. This statement given in the textbook History of the modern world is very similar to the writing in Dickens about Coketown, England.

It was a town of red brick, or brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but, as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves forever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye.

Another point given in chapter six reiterates the social class differences. When Bounderby and Gradgrind are at the circus peoples house, and trying to get Sissy to come live with them, Bounderby makes a statement that “ you see my friend we are the kind people who know the value of time, and you are the kind of people who don’t know the value of time”.

In Hard Times Dickens demonstrates the labor workers feelings during the time of the industrial revolution. Embedded in the story are labor unions, this was a real thing they had back then and now. Workers strived towards a better life, and the labor unions were the answer. Stephen Blackpool is the only one that doesn’t join the labor union in the story, he believe it was corrupt. Although Stephen is disliked because of this and looked at as a traitor, Stephen isn’t one and in fact defends the workers against Bounderby. When he says there the “pests of the earth”. When he told Bounderby he was loyal to his coworkers and not out to help Bounderby, Bounderby got angry and fired Stephen.

The literature in each book is accurate with its illustration of the nineteenth century; although they signify different aspects of the revolution they both get the picture across, and fill their books with a world of information. Not only do these books resemble history but also they bring entertainment that is just as important as to have “Facts” which Mr. Gradgrind learns in Hard Times in the last chapter of the second book when he sees he needs to be a father to his daughter when she arrives at his house a emotional mess, he holds her and realizes that all of his teachings have crumbled right before him. There isn’t really one novel that better represents the nineteenth century, since both books focus on different topics, however Kafka’s book 'The Trial' was slightly more interesting. Each of these can and should be used as a primary source for history.

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