Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
To live life based on one’s own accord rather than the belief of society is to live in an existentialist point of view. Franz Kafka shows what it means to fall prey to the nature of humanity in his short story, A Country Doctor. The protagonist in the story, an unnamed doctor, does not have the ability to facilitate his own decisions; he has to live by the standards of society. Even if he is placed in a situation where he can make a conscious decision, due to his obligation to meet the expectations of his peers, he makes the decision of being his community doctor. After a several events take place which dwindle the mentality and morale of the doctor, the reader will find the protagonist experiencing three of the major themes of existentialism, namely the absurd nature of the human world, the anxiety that it creates and the alienation that one feels after being subjected to the beliefs of the world. Kafka uses these three themes in A Country Doctor to portray the protagonist as an individual who witnesses the very definition of what it is to live a life based on the ideology of society, and not on one’s own accord.
Throughout the entirety of Kafka’s short story, absurd and nonsensical events continually occur that are out of the protagonist’s control, which inflicts a sense of insignificance on the doctor’s desires. As the doctor is on his journey to reach a severely ill patient’s house, he begs other villagers for a horse during a blizzard, a groom approached and offered two of his horses, however, at the same moment reveals clear sexual intent towards the doctor’s maid. This causes the doctor to lash out at the groom, however, he then subjects to himself to the standards of society, as shown in the quote “…but in the same moment reflected that I did not know where he came from, and that of his own free will he was helping me out when everyone else had failed me.”At first, his conscious tells him to yell at the groom for showing such intent, but then afterwards reminds himself of how he was given a horse by the groom of his own free will when no one else would, then leaves his maid at the mercy of the man. This is a prime example of acting not on one’s own accord, as he himself would want to get angry, however he is given a horse to fulfil his duty as a doctor, in which the societal norm is to be appreciative in the case of being given something. As such, the author uses this to depict the idea the reality that humans are caught in a web in subjectivity and irrationality in which they cannot escape, which in itself is absurd in an existentialist’s view.
The doctor gains a strong sense of anxiety and anguish due to his situation in which he had no control over to begin with. He is expected to reach the patients house in a cold blizzard, and the only person who lends him a horse has intent to commit sexual acts with the doctors maid as soon as he leaves. This causes him to be even more anxious as he is expected to reach the patient’s house no matter, which being a doctor was the expectation of the community. Even when he finally reaches the patient’s house, he becomes increasingly anxious as he worries about his maid, stating “that sacrifice was too much to ask”. The unnamed doctor did not want to leave his maid behind. However, since he is a doctor, he had to repress his worry for his maid, and focus only on the patient, which was not his desire. This is a key representation of the expectation that is bestowed upon us at a young age and how we go about our lives abiding those expectations, which only causes anxiety and anguish among individuals.
After finally reaching the patient’s house, the doctor finds his wound one that is impossible to heal. However, he is a doctor, and so he is expected to do the impossible and heal the wound. The doctor clearly expresses his frustration with this expectation in the quote “This is what people are like in my district. Always expecting the impossible from the doctor.” This quote emphasizes the feeling of being expected to do something based on his or her title, which insinuates a feeling of alienation and having no identity of their own. He even goes on to state “… this whole district made my life a torment” further amplifying the feeling of isolation he suffers. He is nothing but a mere tool for saving people’s lives, and nothing else. All in all, this prime portrayal of alienation goes to show that humans will always feel a sense of isolation as they are bestowed the societal standards that they do not adhere to.
Existentialism defines how individualism dwindles as one becomes integrated into society and mankind. Individuals will often face senses of anxiety, anguish, and alienation as a result of the absurd nature of mankind and the expectation bestowed upon them due to titles or birthrights. Kafka incorporates these themes and loosely depicts the nature of humanity in his short story through the eyes of the protagonist to show that individuals are expected to live based on the societal standards, and not on one’s own accord and freedom of will, and for one to live as a free individual, he or she must overcome the societal barrier and act of on their own accord.