COM LIT R1A
The Judgment is a short story about Georg, a young man who consulted his father in his contemplation of writing an estranged friend, only to be driven to suicide after being criticized for his selfishness. Though Georg's submissiveness and constraint are apparent in his desire to please his father, he does have an element of personal agency, in that he finds his has a part of individual agency, in that he considers his freedom from his failures. The ongoing struggle between his free-willed agency and the constraints in his life cause conflict between self-perceptions as selfish and selfless, which confuses Georg to the extent that he feels he can only find true freedom in his eventual suicide.
In the story, the peripheral characters' weaknesses constrain Georg, as they instill a sense of obligation to them. At the start of the story, Georg hesitates to write a letter to his friend who, out of dissatisfaction with his prospects at home, abandoned all familial and relational ties and went into recluse to begin a new life in Russia. Ill-sicken, this friend is depicted as [someone whose] skin was growing so yellow as to indicate some latent disease (Kafka 57). Georg's reluctance to write the friend demonstrates his eagerness to let go of his currently controlled life. For example, Georg himself wanted to get married and share this good news with his friend, but he simply could not out of his consideration for the possibility of his friend's hurt feelings in light of solitude as well as his unhealthy state.
Furthermore, in a later part of the story, Georg's father sits in a dim room and speaks in a low voice while relying on Georg to be moved about, which shows the former's fragility and feebleness. The father is a source of constraint which Georg wants so badly to please him. With his father's sickness, Georg's must play a caregiving role and run the family business. He eats lunch with his father daily and in his own home, is a puppet whose daily life is spied on and controlled by his beloved father. Georg tries to assert his strength and independence, but his utterly limiting concern for his father cannot be hidden from or overcome in his thoughts and expressions. Thus, Georg feels limited and powerless in his perceived obligations to his dear people, which reveals Georg's own weakness attributable to selflessness. Nevertheless, while Georg is constrained by the inadequacies of his seemingly-needy friend and his ailing father, these weak characters prompt Georg to make decisions for himself.
According to his father, Georg's mother's tragic death fueled Georg's sense of responsibility to adjust his life from a submissive child to a capable grownup in pursuit of his independence. As his father gradually de-escalated in his aggressiveness, Georg started to actively participate in the family business. Two years into his participation, the company had developed most unexpectedly, the staff had had to be doubled, and the turnover ...