The Cage of Subjectivism
When people use the phrase “real world” or the word “reality”, there is a big question whether all speakers mean a single thing or each of them has a quite different understanding of the issue. Great philosophers of all times and nations, as well as talented artists, tried to solve the mystery of human consciousness which predetermines the perception of “reality.” Nevertheless, the secret of the personality and his/her internal world still did not lose its mystery and actuality. Thereby, the literature works that were created a century ago could be found as a revelation for the modern reader. Regarding this situation, we may consider small fiction stories by Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez who presented their original vision of a common issue – the human subjectivism. Thus, the paper seeks to explore the peculiarities of the authors’ literature techniques they used to emphasize the focused issue when comparing Kafka’s A Hanger Artist and Marquez’ A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.
It may seem that the fiction stories have no common features regarding their context, literature manner nor the author’s viewpoints. While Kafka narrates the life story of an artist who works with original art of fasting, Marquez appeals to the magic story about the mysterious creature appearing suddenly on the family’s courtyard and changing the life of the whole settlements. Obviously, the author should use the different literature tone to present such diverse plots. Kafka’s story implies a real case and seems to be the dramatic narration depicting all sufferings of the protagonist including physical and psychological ones. Likewise, Marquez used the ironical tone that not once makes the reader focus their attention on the inconsistency of human judgments about the things they see.
The emotional tone of the stories allows grasping the authors’ artistic message as well as it underlines the most significant moments, symbols, and feelings that Kafka and Marquez tried to transmit the reader. Thus, one can notice that Kafka’s fiction is focused on individual expectations and dissatisfaction. However, Marquez pays attention to the differences in social vision of a single phenomenon. In both cases, the authors mean the human subjectivism but each of them emphasizes its different perspective. For instance, Kafka shows readers the way how the individual obsession with an own idea can influence the life, and Marquez demonstrates the aftermaths of collective delusion.
Both individual and collective dimensions of the subjectivism are equally dangerous for the society and the personality because they serve as the communicational limitations or “a cage.” Considering this fact, readers may notice that this art symbol appears in A Hunger Artist and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings having the same metaphorical meaning. It seems to be the central metaphor of both stories. However, only comparing them considering two different contexts one can see the true meaning and consequences of human subjective vision. Likewise the artist, the majority of people live in the cages of their individual ideals. They are sure that they are right, and their position is so clear and evident that the others should share it. Having no idea about the reasons of such incomprehension people feel strange in the society and dissociated from it with the abstract cage. Kafka demonstrates this issue stating that it was impossible for the artist “to fight against the whole world of non-understanding” (Kafka, 2016).
When the Kafka’s artist condemned himself to the imprisonment, it was his individual choice. However, the Marquez’ mysterious angel was deprived by the society, which prescribed different roles to him, and did not have an idea about his true nature. Thus, an attentive reader may easily notice the hint of stereotyped thinking in action. Society does not make any efforts to understand the person who differs from them. Normally, they start putting various labels based on their previous experience, faith, expectations etc. There is a significant “gap between what it is and what it should be” in human consciousness. Besides, it is dangerous when this gap is transformed into a weapon for isolation or excluding the “strange” personalities (Hooti & Borna 54). Thus, in Marquez’ story, the old man was in such a cage because of being different from the others. Considering the authors’ emphasis on the language aspect, it seems that Marquez implies the multicultural side of the subjectivism (Yadav, 2016). In the story, he states that the man “answers in an incomprehensible dialect” and “does not understand the language of God (Latin)” (Marquez, 2016). Considering that a language is one of the aspects of cultural belonging, one can suggest that Marquez reveals the actual issue of racial discrimination which causes the separation of “different” and placing them in the cage of alienation.
Kafka and Marquez appeal to the theme of the divine proving that people have a false idea not only about the world of things, feelings, relations, their own forces, and opportunities but also about religion.
Calling the old man an Angel, that society could not see the expected divinity in this mysterious creation. Thereby, the author raises a philosophical question whether he is a true angel or people have an incomprehensive idea about divinity. Supposing the old man is the angel, the society has no opportunity to understand his significant mission depriving him of the divine status at once because of stereotyped thinking. Furthermore, the situation with the local priest who is waiting for the answer from the highest religious ranked people to decide whether the society should consider a captured creature to be the angel underlines the power of the collective mind. The readers may see the hidden meaning of the crowd in both stories. If the person is an ordinary man who shares the common ideas, then, he/she is an honorable member of society. Conversely, when an individual is different having nonstandard thinking, color of skin, language, faith etc, he/she will immediately be “caged.”
In his story, Kafka often underlines the religious number – forty days of fasting – which hints on God’s will and protection. Being guided by his individual aspiration for fame and honor, the artist strive to overcome this term of the experiment. He is sure that it is easy for him to beat his own records. Later, he gets such an opportunity in the circus where being without any control he died from exhaustion. This bitter ending proves that achieving a desirable goal does not always bring the expected satisfaction. Kafka offers his readers a religious lesson teaching not to limit themselves in their perception of reality and go far beyond the cage of subjectivism.
It is worth admitting that reading only one story could not bring such deep understanding of subjectivism and its consequences for individual and society as each work of fiction supplements the other with new and unexpected details. Presenting both individual and collective dimensions of subjectivism, the authors make the readers understand that being in the cage is the drama for the person regardless the reason he/she is placed there. However, being outside the cage and sharing a role of the obsessive majority is even bigger drama as ab individual is so social. Although using different plots, a literature tone, and metaphors’ modification, both Kafka and Marquez encourage society to be free from conscious cages and refuse to perpetuate the stereotypes which limit human minds.
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