Symbolism is one of the several literary devices used in literature. It is used where an author uses a person, an object, a situation, or a word to represent another thing. The device helps in ensuring that ideas flow seamlessly and also enables the author to create a certain emotion or mood. The great use of symbols makes A Country Doctor one of the most enigmatic stories written by Franz Kafka. Set in a dream environment, the story is narrated in the first person by a country doctor who is faced with a myriad of challenges and seems to be losing control. A mysterious groom appears from the pigsty, and momentarily seems to have the solution to the doctor's problems. Unfortunately, the groom is not as benevolent as the doctor thinks. The groom, Rosa, the patient, and the horses are some of the symbols used by Kafka in the story. This paper seeks to explore the groom symbol with respect to the dreamscape, the theme of the story, and the author's biography.
Meaning of "Groom" Symbol in the Story
As mentioned earlier, symbolism enables writers to create certain meanings or emotions. It also helps the reader understand the message being conveyed better. A Country Doctor is a story of conflicts and contrasts. There are visible and hidden desires, and the narrator is constantly forced to make conscious and unconscious decisions.
Moreover, the struggle between good and evil is at the core of the story. Looking at it in this light, the author brings in the groom to amplify these contrasts. The groom is everything that the doctor is not. He can also be taken to represent who the doctor was in the past or who he is beneath the facade. The doctor appears to be a responsible man who cares for others. He has not noticed Rosa though he has stayed with her for years. The groom, who appears mysteriously, is the direct opposite. The fact that he chose to stay in the pigsty instead of seeking shelter in the house shows that he is not a straightforward person and that he might have ulterior motives. He is wild and does not hesitate to force himself onto Rosa. He also clearly states that he will be left with her. The groom also represents the difficult decisions that people are forced to make. Though the doctor knows that the groom is up to no good, he needs his help. The patient also needs him and hence is forced to leave Rosa at the mercy of the groom.
This agrees with Katherine Stockholder's commentary. According to her, the groom helps the doctor see a side of himself that he did not know existed. For the very first time, the doctor sees Rosa as a sexual creature. However, the doctor remains passive and indecisive. Though he threatens to whip the groom, he realizes that he needs his help and ends up leaving him with Rosa. She also insinuates that the doctor's meeting with the sick boy was sexual (Stockholder 331).
Groom Symbol and Doctor's Dreamscape/Psyche
Some of the events that occur in the story make it look like a dream. For instance, the magical appearance of the groom and the horses cannot be real. Also, there is no sense of time in the story. By presenting the story as a dream, the reader is prompted to think that the story is an exploration of the doctor's personality rather than a presentation of reality. He undergoes a self-scrutiny and finds things about himself that he cannot change. He does not intentionally open the pigsty. However, a series of events that help the reader understand the doctor better occur when he kicks the door. From the pigsty emerges the groom who opens the doctor to a reality he has not known over the years. This is an exploration of his subconscious.
Groom Symbol and Theme of the Story
The story brings out several themes and teaches essential lessons in life. The groom helps bring out the theme of dilemmas that people are faced with daily. The doctor wants to stay behind and protect Rosa, but there is also a patient who direly needs his services. Moreover, he has the impression that the groom is an evil man from the start but needs his help. Regardless of the decision that he makes, someone is bound to get hurt. He decides to help the sick boy and sacrifices Rosa in the process.
The groom also represents the ever-present conflict between good and evil. He offers the doctor means to go and save the sick boy. Ironically, in a representation of temptations and greed of men, he is left behind and hurts Rosa. Therefore, it is difficult to classify the groom as either good or evil. The groom also represents the things that the doctor hates about himself but is too weak to do anything. For instance, he ought to protect Rosa and make firmer decisions but does not.
Groom and Kafka's Biography
Kafka lived a sexually active life and had relationships with multiple women (Mirmobin and Shabanirad 3). The sexual greed portrayed by the groom is, therefore, a representation of this side of the author's character. The writer is also known to have had a fear of sexual failure (Mirmobin and Shabanirad 3). This behavior is seen in the doctor who does not approach Rosa for years. The appearance of the groom helps amplify this inadequacy.
Mirmobin, Sara and Ensieh Shabanirad. "Interpretation of Dreams and Kafka's A Countr Doctor: A Psychoanalytic Reading." International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences 63 (2015): 1-6. <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ae00/5ae44f70fd28e307570814113f78721d6369.pdf>.
Stockholder, Katherine. "Franz Kafka, 'A Country Doctor': The Narrator as Dreamer." American Imago 35.4 (1978): 331-346.
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