“He was thinking about his friend, who had actually run away to Russia some years before, being dissatisfied with his prospects at home. Now he was carrying on a business in St. Petersburg, which had flourished to begin with but had long been going downhill, as he always complained on his increasingly rare visits. So he was wearing himself out to no purpose in a foreign country, the unfamiliar full beard he wore did not quite conceal the face Georg had known so well since childhood, and his skin was gro6ing so yellow as to indicate some latent disease. By his own account he had no regular connection with the colony of his fellow countrymen out there and almost no social intercourse with Russian families, so that he was resigning himself to becoming a permanent bachelor” (77).
The modern idea of traveling, of running away to a foreign land filled with unknown possibilities, and pursuing something that was unattainable in a former life is seen here with Georg’s “friend” running away to Russia because he found his prospects at home to be “dissatisfying.” This idea of traveling away is a modern idea of changing one’s lifestyle through the technological advancements of different apparatus of travel. Not only is the concept of running away found in this passage, but also the concept of life being disparaging and despairing is found here as well. He found good prospects in this foreign land; he was able to get a company off the ground and succeeded initially at this venture, however, things took a turn for the worse for his business and began to nosedive. To make matters worse, he was stricken with an illness as well, and seems unable to make social connections or relationships, condemning himself to a life alone. Though initially reading about running away from his problems seems somewhat romantic, life catches up with him regardless of his location. His “friend” has run into the reality that life’s hardships are found anywhere, and this seems to be a modern theory.
The idea of escaping is much like that of traveling and running away. It can be seen throughout the short story. Georg, like his friend, wishes to escape, however, Georg’s desired escape looks nothing like that of his friend. While his friend tries to evade the displeasures of his life at home by escaping to another country, Georg hopes to escape his father’s judgment and abuse. He feels inconsequential compared to his father’s presence, as it’s written, “’My father is still a giant of a man’” (81). This feeling of inadequacy strikes a chord with Georg, and when his father continues on a rant later on, Georg reacts in a physical disconnect with his father. Georg does not want to be present with the emotional torment his father is imposing on him, as his father stands upon his bed ranting about Georg’s shortcomings as a man. Georg reacts very negatively to this, “Georg shrank into a corner, asfar away from his father as possible” (85). Here we see that Georg physically wants to be separate from his father, he wants to, it seems, run away from all of this. By the end of the short story Georg is successful at escaping the emotional distress imposed upon him by his father through suicide. The question arises of who is truly successful at escape: Georg or his friend? It seems that though Georg’s friend’s escape is thrust into a downward spiral, at least there is no end to his escape, meaning there is hope. This could be seen as a positive thing, especially if he is able to turn his life around, however, this can also be viewed in the negative as well because if he is unable to turn his failures into successes then an end seems merciful and preferable. If that is the case then it seems Georg’s escape, his death, is the more successful one, though it is much more morbid and depressing. This attests to the modern trend of incorporating death and despair into the literature.
Kafka, Franz. The Sons. “The Judgment.” N.P.: Schoken, 1989. 77. Print.