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Golomb-Bregman, E. (1989). No Rose without Thorns: Ambivalence in Kafka's “A Country Doctor”. Am. Imago, 46(1):77-84.

(1989). American Imago, 46(1):77-84

No Rose without Thorns: Ambivalence in Kafka's “A Country Doctor”

Etti Golomb-Bregman

The succession of events narrated in Kafka's “A Country Doctor” follows a strange logic of causality. This paper employs the concept of ambivalence as a primary key for understanding Kafka's story. Ambivalence in “A Country Doctor” will be viewed from three perspectives: as a dream, as a case history, and as a reflection of the phenomenon of transference-countertransference

Ambivalence may be defined as the co-existence of two opposing attitudes, especially love and hate, towards the same object (Laplanche and Pontalis, trans, by Nicholson-Smith 1973). In Kafka's story, “Rose,” combining flower and thorns in one object is the main image of ambivalence. “Rose” is both the name of the doctor's servant girl and the color of the patient's wound.1 “Rose” is a highly condensed symbol which arouses both positive and negative associations such as virginity and death. It also refers to a contagious, inflammatory skin disease.2 The word “rose” itself suggests hidden “secrets” in the text through association with the German expression writer der Rose which denotes acts performed in secret.3

To begin with, ambivalence is expressed by the doctor's saying: “But that I should have sacrificed Rose this time, the pretty girl who had lived in my house for years almost without my noticing her, that sacrifice was too much” (p. 152). The use of the word “sacrifice” suggests her importance to him, while, in the same breath, he mentions that he had not noticed her. Ambivalence is also suggested by the doctor's description of the “rose-red” wound: “I had discovered your great wound: this blossom in your side was destroying you” (p. 153).

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