Over the past centuries, the gender roles, position in society, and attitudes towards each other have transitioned and taken a new direction that emphasizes equality of rights. Today women and men have an equal voice, and they are entitled to similar societal and constitutional rights (Eagly, et al. 1). The revolution of gender roles began in the late nineteenth century with increased industrialization, immigration, technological advancement, and world war conflicts. In Europe, for instance, women began working in the industries as more men were drafted into World War I, and they exercised more political roles during the moment of crisis(BBC). On the other hand, in America, the gender roles revolution developed in industrialization and immigration. When minority groups such as African Americans began expressing their quest for freedom, women also formed movements that foresaw their equal participation in social affairs and gender roles(The Editors 7). Before these gender revolutionary changes, society had structures that undermined women and marginalized gender relationships. Judith Buttler held the community systems responsible for causing gender trouble since they contained elements the spur sociological differences(Morgenroth and Rhyan). This essay will take a comparative approach to discuss the theme of gender by using Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book “Crime and Punishment” and “Metamorphosis and Other Stories” by Franz Kafka. These male authors closely craft their epic writings based on their lives and give a particular impression of gender roles in society. Fyodor Dostoevsky, an early writer, was an inspirational model in Kafka’s work, and therefore, their work slightly takes a similar approach. The authors unveil the darkness and misery men experience regardless of their presumed role in society and connect with the readers. The artists also unfold women’s roles and phrase them in distinctive ways, as discussed in the essay. This essay will show the emotional disconnection men experienced regardless of the assumed higher stature, and it will prove that women had a significant contribution to the community.
Kafka describes the male characters as individuals with heavy burdens and high expectations from the family. Kafka paints the male characters with heavy responsibilities that drive them away from social life and denies them the opportunity to pursue personal goals. A man is expected to meet family expectations by being the role model, going to school, and working in official settings. However, the societal expectations placed on male persons may contradict their values in their lives. The contradiction of personal beliefs and family expectations may negatively turn since it may create confusion, stress, and detachment. According to Kafka’s writing, uncontrolled family expectations intensify and escalate to pressure which pushes male individuals to sudden transformations. Through the figure of Gregor, the author captures how family pressure transforms him “into a monstrous vermin(Kafka 7).” Work is a troublesome activity in Gregor’s life that constrains his abilities to enjoy life, engage in healthy relationships, and bear children(Kafka 8). Gregor despises work, unending traveling, the social detachments it creates, and his profession’s unfavorable conditions since he feels no connection to the work. The effects of a hostile work attitude courtesy of family pressure translate to his daily routine as he dislikes aspects of life such as the weather. Karl Marx’s work ideologies relate to Kafka’s writing since the philosopher believed that social systems forced people to work. Marx believed that people did not necessarily work out of passion, but the desire to meet basic needs pushed them beyond their preciousness in life(Prychitko). Therefore, people may lead unhappy lives like Gregor due to work schedules enforced by social systems. The author describes males as the principal breadwinners of families but describes their responsibilities differently. Instead of assigning men responsibilities with a superior stature, he describes it as slavery or imprisonment that cages an individual’s life.
According to Kafka’s writing “Metamorphosis,” women are more submissive and dependent on men for sustenance. Kafka paints the picture of women during the 1900s era through Gregor’s sister Grete. Grete looks upon his elder brother and depends on his earnings for meeting basic needs. When Gregor was working before his metamorphosis, he eliminated all sorts of shame that may come to his sister due to lack of money. Gregor even pressed himself to work out his loyalty for his sister, mother, and father. Gregor’s success was directly linked with that of her sister, and he also pitied her because he understood the difficulties of modern work. Gregor was saddened by the disruption of her sister’s life when he decided to stop working since it caused shame to a woman’s life. However, after Gregors metamorphosis, the author shows that women can significantly contribute to work. Grete is forced to enter the industry and become part of the family breadwinners. Grete also feels the pressure of modern work and views his brother as an “interminable torture” that should be removed from the household(Kafka 46). Women were expected to stay at home and attend domestic chores before finding marriage suitors. Women could only work in rare cases, and if they engaged in work, they took up servant duties. Lowly educated women who had no alternative for income generation due to lack of male breadwinners served as waitresses and cooks in wealthier households. Women working as servants injected disgrace into male persons who were physically fit to work(Trueman). Following Gregor’s alteration, Grete and other family members who were initially his dependents had to work to sustain their former provider.
Kafka’s book describes how the submissive nature of women disconnects their engagement and commitment to family affairs. Women had a minor position in families, and they frequently sided with their husbands. Even when it comes to rational considerations, women occasionally took charge and guided their children in the right direction as expected. Therefore, there was a psychological gap in which women failed to satisfy their children’s lives. Kafka’s life expounds on how his mother was emotionally absent in his life due to her submissive nature. Kafka graduated with law honors but chose to work in an insurance company which his father did not acknowledge. Similarly, his mother sided with the father, a thing the author describes as a common feature. In his writing of the “Metamorphosis,” the author depicts the psychological absence of his mother and sister. No one understands the misery and emptiness Gregor felt due to family and work pressure. Gregor’s father and mother escalate his pressure by demanding him meet the family needs regardless of his feeling towards work. When Gregor could not wake up for his duty, the parents cried and were worried because the job seemed to be at risk(Kafka 41). Gregor’s concerns were not triggered by love but because of the fear of reviving past debts and rendering the family poor. Therefore, the authors show elements of parental disconnection due to misleading attitudes towards work.
On the other hand, in his book “Crime and Punishment,” he paints male characters with an authoritative stature. The author presents Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov’s protagonist and gives him a higher sense of responsibility. The author describes Raskolnikov as a rational man whose life subjects him to several psychological dilemmas that eventually get the best of him. Dostoevsky presents the psychological journey the protagonist encountered in life, including pity and revealing how he ended up committing murder. The protagonist is shaped to fight against animal brutality as he kisses a mistreated horse. Raskolnikov also contributes to the community by giving up some money to a widow’s home with ill people(Dostoyevsky 29). However, he later rethinks his generous act and condemns himself for acting foolishly. The protagonist also rescues a tortured girl from harassers while feeling a deep compulsion for violent acts. Raskolnikov also has a different perspective about religion since he is open to Christianity, which rarely occurs in the family. The protagonist embraces western politics and economics and is open to their ideologies. The open-mindedness of Raskolnikov could attract severe punishment from the law since Russia was a communist society. The different belief about Russian politics relates to Dostoevsky’s life as he was arrested and imprisoned for approximately ten years for participating in revolutionary movements. Russia has had dictatorial leadership that has heavily punished some people due to political and economic ideologies(Library of Russian Archives). Being a communist society, embracing the western culture was viewed as a serious offense punishable by death. The author describes male figures to question rigid systems regardless of the strings attached.
According to Dostoevsky’s book, women are more compassionate to people’s emotions, which contradicts Kafka’s narration. The author shapes the female character Sonia with a light heart, willing to help the less fortunate in society. For instance, Sonia served at a widow’s home and would dedicate his time to helping ill patients. Sonia is always willing to help people even though she is rebuked for her way of life. The poverty in her family forces Sonia into prostitution and attracts negative criticism from the community. However, Sonia engaged in prostitution courtesy of her irresponsible and “filthy drunkard” father, who could not meet the family’s basic needs(Dostoyevsky 25). Sonia’s affection for her family makes up to engage in any activity to ensure the family sustenance. Sonia is a loving, understanding, and generous person who becomes romantically engaged with Raskolnikov. Therefore, the author shows how women were misunderstood and abused to earn an income, yet men were responsible for placing them in such situations. Sonia perceived that Raskolnikov must be experiencing a grievous and miserable life that made him bitter. Sonia creates a mutual feeling with Raskolnikov that connects them and triggers romantic affections. The promiscuous life of Sonia and the murders cases of Raskolnikov served as a shared “transgression” that unified the characters(Dostoyevsky 322). Moreover, Sonia did not judge Raskolnikov for his inhumane acts since she tried to connect how his psychological life led to such violent acts. Sonia convinces Raskolnikov to turn himself up to be apprehended and ensures him endless support when he is jailed.
The author justifies justifying unjust activities on females that are performed by male characters. Dostoevsky takes readers through a psychological journey that seems to validate Raskolnikov’s decision of murdering the two women. In one instance, the author describes Raskolnikov with a kind heart by demonstrating his compassion for animals and abused women. The author creates a familiar experience with the protagonist and makes readers classify him as an average human despite his violent acts. Furthermore, the author creates a solid relationship between Raskolnikov and Sonia, proving that the protagonist is not entirely evil. The book also rationalizes Raskolnikov’s deeds, who believe he is destined to eliminate people that cause suffering. Raskolnikov further expresses his regret and remorse for committing murder, which shows empathy. Dostoevsky’s justifying murder takes a similar approach to Nawal El Saadawi’s book “Woman at Point Zero” which describes the murder produced by a female protagonist Firdaus. Firdaus stabs a man to death because of sexual harassment and defilement committed by men with higher positions in authority(Saadawi 6). Through El Saadawi’s narration style, readers develop a different perspective towards a murderer (Firdaus), the same style employed in Dostoevsky’s book. Therefore, the author tries to show some psychological connection to Raskolnikov’s violent acts and shapes him as not being entirely evil. Likewise, Kafka’s book justified Gregor’s quitting his job and completely transforming his life. Therefore, on a comparative analysis, Kafka’s approach of exalting men and creating some connection of empathy to the reader corresponds to that of Dostoevsky’s style.
In conclusion, Kafka’s and Dostoevsky’s way share some similar aspects of gender. Kafka shows the emotional anguish men experience from societal pressure and the assumption that men are emotionally stronger while also showing Dostoevsky the struggles men experience due to psychological breakdown. The authors draw men as rational beings that may experience a sudden turnaround in life due to some aspects of the environment. Even though the books describe women as submissive and dependant on men for sustenance, they show that women can also work and provide for their families. For Gregor’s case in Kafka’s book, her sister took over after the transformation and earned some income while Sonia worked as a prostitute to feed her family in Dostoevsky’s book. However, Kafka believes that the submissive nature of women limits their contribution to parental care, while Dostoevsky paints women with a steady emotional intelligence. Dostoevsky’s book depicts women as emotionally sensitive and responsible for family matters.
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