Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The short story ‘A Country Doctor’, by Franz Kafka, tells the tale of a doctor in a surreal world, attempting to care for patients but ultimately unable to do so. The story is told from a first person perspective of the doctor, who relays a fast paced and chaotic sequence of events. The excitement is only built because of his obviously portrayed fragmentary character; beginning the story in the past, switching to the present where he is being forced to disrobe, reverting back to the past, and finally shifting back to the present at the end. The images described by the protagonist share no logical connection with each other, and as the story unfolds, they are forced to an abrupt stop at the story’s conclusion. This effect is heightened by a continuous use of semicolons that shorten the already abrupt, hurried sentences that the doctor uses when recounting his tale. It is not apparent at first that the depicted reality of the story takes place in the form of a nightmare, from which the doctor finds himself unable to escape.
In fact, the author seems to use this surreal and gruesome setting to portray that doctor as a person who is constantly thrust into situations and circumstances that he asserts no control over. He treats situations as though an unwavering path forward has been laid before him and he must follow that path, without questioning whether the possibility to turn or go back is available. This quality that the doctor possesses causes the absurd scenes that he encounters to appear normal and coherent at the start of the tale. Due to the fact that he does not react negatively to any of the portrayed oddities, the reader is not, at first, left with a sense of disjointment.
Within the portrayal of the story, the reader could discern existential principles demonstrated by the doctor. Being an anti-existential character, the doctor seems to have no control over any aspect of his journey. Even when given a choice, he elects to fulfill the societal expectations that were deemed necessary of him rather than acting in a manner that he would otherwise. However, the governing notion of selfish human nature that seems to drive the community disgusts him, which as a reader I find intriguing because even though he does what is expected of him, he disapproves what is done around him. This conflict of opinion and plays a major role in illustrating the existentialist point of view upon life as revealed in the story.