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Webster, P.D. (1951). A Critical Examination of Franz Kafka's “The Castle”. Am. Imago, 8(1):35-60.

(1951). American Imago, 8(1):35-60

A Critical Examination of Franz Kafka's “The Castle”

Peter Dow Webster

“This even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poison'd challice To our own lips.”

Shakespeare's Macbeth. Act 1 Sc. 7

Although it has frequently been treated as though it were a metaphysical essay, Franz Kafka's “The Castle” is actually an excellent expressionistic novel, one of the greatest works of art produced in our time. The hero, K., reactivates salient erotic fantasies which give dramatic continuity and vividness to his inner life from the womb to early maturity. Although it was written in 1921, some seven years after Kafka had begun the writing of “The Trial”, the inner conflict or “arrest” of “The Trial” has not appreciably advanced. It is unfortunate that Max Brod, the official biographer of Kafka, has been followed by numerous critics in an effort to make out of “The Castle” a religious message or protest against the incompatibles of the divine and the human order. Brod tells us that the hero, K., by divine dispensation was to be permitted to wear himself out in the village, in a sort of punitive, religious experience, and that he was to die worn out with the struggle.

It is my contention that “The Castle” is a masterly artistic formulation of the conflict between the isolated ego, characterized by pseudo-aggression, and the total psychic past centered in an infantile trauma. Before Freud formulated his id-ego-superego structure of the psyche, psychologists spoke generally of the preconscious as the content or even region immediately available to recall, and of the unconscious as that latent, suppressed, or forgotten content beyond the power of conscious recollection.

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