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Get Shmoopesque with Kafka.

Looking for a nice, uplifting read? Then you've found yourself in the wrong spot—Franz Kafka just wasn't about the smiles.

This is a guy who could turn a human into a bug in the course of a sentence and who wasn't afraid to ask Deep Questions about the fundamental nature of the human condition. Don't let those simple sentences fool you: Kafka makes his readers work for it.

This course will help you through it all—from strange torture devices to labyrinthine bureaucracies, it'll be a crazy ride through Kafkatown.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. The Man and His Work

This unit is a crash course in Kafka and his short fiction. Just remember short ≠ simple.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 5: A Bug's Life

Some transformations are prettier than others.

If you're feeling a massive womp womp right now, then Kafka has done his job. This guy loved him some unhappy endings.

By the end of the story, Gregor was totally trapped: in his bug body, in his room, and in his family, who no longer thought of him as their son or brother. And so he chooses to die.

And that's what we call classic Kafka.

Most of his characters start out paranoid that fate is somehow against them—and in the end, it usually is. Death seems better than whatever awful situation they've gotten stuck in, and so they make their way out.

So while Kafka did believe in human agency—that is, in the ability to make our own choices and be our own people—it doesn't mean he thought those choices would turn out well. And after Gregor dies, the world moves on.

Nothing doing here—just the regular old predictable, boring misery of life.

Uplifting, eh?