Development Theories in Kafka's Letter to His Father

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‘Letter to His Father ’ by Franz Kafka is a 45-page write-up in a letter format written by author father, Hermann Kafka written why the father son had a bad relationship. There are many developmental psychological theories that come while reading the letter. John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory is one theory that is very evident in the letter. According to him ‘Attachment’ is the initial bond that is formed between the child and caregiver, which impacts the child throughout their life. Being attached gives a feeling of comfort, safety and exploration. 

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Avoidance Insecurity is one of the attachment styles that is seen in Franz childhood. In this style of attachment the child doesn’t explore or show emotions when the caregiver is away. They caregiver is equalivilent to a Stanger and tends to avoid them when they are present. “I have always hidden from you, in my room among my books, with crazy friends or with extravagant concepts. I have never talked to you frankly; I have never come to see you… nor indeed never shown any family feelings.These were his exact words while writing the letter. Words like hidden, never talked, never came and never shown any feelings clearly are tactics of avoidance one can use. According to Franz’s friend the letter he wrote was not given to his father directly. Franz gave the letter to his mother and asked her to pass it on to his father. Which clearly showed avoidance in his behavior towards his father. There is another incident in his childhood that haunts Franz, which can be used in avoidance insecurity attachment style of attachment but with a different perspective. 

One night when little Franz was whimpered for water not because he was thirty but partly to annoy after many threats his father carried him onto the pavlatche and left him alone. In my opinion this incident will come in avoidance insecurity attachment that the caregiver does only to make the child more independent. This was a lesson the father made little Franz learn so he would not cry unnecessarily and be more independent. We can use the same incident to display Operant Learning by B.F Skinner where organism learns to repeat certain behavior that may have positive outcome or avoid a negative outcome.  The continuous crying that night made him realized that he should not cry unnecessarily by the punishment, which is a procedure in which the activity is aimed to decrease which he received by standing outside alone in night, which was given by his father. Franz mention in his letter that after that night he did became obedient but the sight of him standing alone at night was so disturbing that he tried not to ask anything to his father in future. Skinner has termed this as ‘negative punishment’. The father also used positive reinforces which are stimuli that strengthen responses that will encourage that behavior. In the letter it has mentioned how is father used to encourage Franz when he used to march and salute, when he was able to repeat a song, or imitated his father. Other than this we can see few stages of Erikson’s eight stages of psychological development. One stage that I will look upon is ‘Identity vs. Role confusion’. In this stage Erikson point out how adolescents try to define their self and their self-identity and if they fail then adolescents can face an identity crisis. “Since there was nothing at all I was certain of, since I needed to be provided at every instant with a new confirmation of my existence, since nothing was in my very own, undoubted, sole possession, determined unequivocally only by me” This evokes identity crisis that Franz was facing a feeling of self-doubt and uncertainty. 

According to Erikson when they are not sure about their identity and may peruse to their parent’s ideas for future they adapt a sense of role confusion, which affects them in the future. Which exactly happened to Franz, as he was not satisfied with his career as he shifted jobs, first in Italian insurance company and then after one year in Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute with writing as a hobby. Franz has even argued about his identity as true Kafka. In the letter we can see how he has labeled his father as a ‘true Kafka’ who has strength, good health, self-satisfaction, wordily dominance where he sees himself as a weak, restless, hesitant and timid. Or a true Kafka is more cheerful, fresher and more informal like his uncles. Franz here is confused with his identity as a true Kafka.    

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