Kafka Paper - "The Great Wall of China" In Franz...

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“The Great Wall of China” In Franz Kafka’s short story “The Great Wall of China”, the reader is presented with an allegorical account of a man leaving his home and loved ones in the south of China to partake in the building of the Great Wall in the north. By using an account of an unknown emperor, yet a universally accepted high command, Kafka strikes common ground with Plato’s idea of Forms, which Kafka uses to present the people of china as those who believe that “ignorance is bliss”. The Great Wall functions throughout the story as a metaphor for writing, and through this metaphor, Kafka reveals his feelings that writing serves as a form of protection, and a means of uniting peoples of different cultures, as well as his feelings that it is important to take what is presented as the truth and examine it more thoroughly before coming to any conclusions. Most striking to the reader is the fact that the people of China have such faith in and obedience to their emperor, although they do not know his name or who he truly is. The high command, or emperor, in Kafka’s story is startlingly reminiscent of Plato’s idea of Forms. The narrator states, “Our leaders know us… I must say that in my opinion the high command has existed from old time, and was not assembled, say, like a gathering of mandarins summoned hastily” (page 241). The fact that the narrator feels as though there are essentially two emperors, the idea of the emperor, as well as the literal emperor, can be directly translated into the idea of the universal Form, and an imitation of that Form. The emperor, as such, on the other hand, is mighty throughout all the hierarchies of the world: admitted. But the existent emperor, a man like us, lies much like us on a couch… (page 243) The people fully acknowledge that they know nothing about their current emperor, and it is very possible that he is an extraordinarily ordinary man, not unlike themselves.
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However, the people of China hold within them an ideal of the emperor, which they will always respect and obey. The actual emperor of the day is an imitation of the universal form of the emperor, and thus the Chinese people feel a duty to obey his decrees as well, because he is only one removed from the truth. The actual demands of the emperor are
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Kafka Paper - "The Great Wall of China" In Franz...

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