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to begin with, i have to say the idea of kafka himself being on the "outisde" of the society in which he lived,

and even a sort of paranoia abotu being this outsider, is first and foremost the central theme of my understanding of kafka, and it heavily influences the way i read and understand his work. i have always thought him to be a sort of innocent but accepting outcast of his environment, someone who was always "on the outside," didn't know the secret that everyone else was in on, but accepted it nonetheless, without expecting retribution. not that this was an easy thing to do, but what alternative was there? i think kafka was very disappointed with the way his world was and how the poeple around him treated each other, and he did not feel like a part of "their" society because he could see these faults where they could seemingly not see them. i have thought that this theme runs through most of his writings, because of his living conditions. it might be possible, though, that i am making it up, and merely seeing in his stories what i want to see. sort of projecting into them what i feel is happening around me, i guess. however, it is with this sort of anti-society viewpoint that i interpret kafka's work, for good or for ill. i don't know if this boggs me down to a bound, narrowlyfocused opinion, instead of a more universal level than just these stories being kafka "venting" frustations at an impure, difficult and counter-productive world. however, this is not to say that kafka thought society was hopeless or inherently evil, i don't think. on the contrary, i think he held relationships with people very dearly- and it was because of this that the inadequacies around him drew so much of his attention. i believe he had high hopes for what society could be, but the current state of things was infuriatingly inferior. but, please bear that in mind when trying to understand my model of the story, because it is where i am coming from. but now, on to the story.

in regards to "before the law," someone once said "the Law is simply presented as the place into which one wants entry." that, however vague, is exactly what i think the law is. it doesn't need to be something as concrete as "heaven" or "riches" or "freedom" or anything else (not that those areparticularly "concrete" ideas, though). and, it could very well be different for every society that reads this story. which may be why kafka left it so open- so it would be practically universally applicable. for kafka's society, then (and, by extension, ours), what i have always thought the law to be is kind of an abstract sense of belonging to society. "the law" to me seemed to be the sort of unwritten code that people in our society live by; not necessarily the laws written and supported by our governments or gods, but written, intentionally or unintentionally, by ourselves, colletively. and i say "written" not to mean actually written down anywhere, but just as a sort of understanding people have with one another, on how to act in each other's company.

this etiqutte, however, would be absolutely mysterious and unfathomable to someone outside this collective, and this, i think, is where the man from the country comes in. i don't know if anyone else has expereienced this, but i often feel i'm on "the outside" of things, and simply am not aware of many things that the people around me "just know." whether i was not told of these things and they were, or if i just failed to perceive them at one point or other in my life while they came to understand them, i don't know. but it seems to me, very plainly, that there is a wide variety of "knowledge bits" (for lack of a better phrase) i am not privy to- and i think it is this collection of knowledge bits that makes up the abstract idea of "the law."

but the law is not a seperate entity. although i think it is this group of unwritten codes, it cannot exist without the society that has established them. so, the law and this society are almost synonomous-

or at least mutually-dependant (you cannot seperate breathing from human life, and you cannot have human life without breathing. but let us be ever-vigilant about analogies.).

with that being said, i think the story can be more easily understood. "the law" is the basis for how society works, and without knowing this law and acting in accordance with it, we cannot be a part of society; and subsequently let in the door. the door, then, i think, is the country man's life, which is why "no one else could have been admitted." to enter into and be accepted by this society, you have to live a life suitable to them, and only you can alter your own life. therefore, it is up to each of us to learn the law, or the code of this society, and then live by it. however, since this codes are not written down anywhere, and are so much a part of the collective unconscious that someone within the law probably couldn't even spell them all out for you, this is no easy task. every society today has it's own culture, history, language, idioms- everything that makes that society what it is. for an outsider to try to identify these things on his own is almost impossible. and yet, that is what each of us must do to become a part of a new society- to be accepted. before we will be allowed in, accept as one, or regarded as an equal member, we must prove that we are indeed worthy of this- until then, we are held "before the law," in isolation and continually on trial, to prove we are one of them. and i don't even think it's an active trial; the people around me are not constantly looking at my actions and evaluating them. but, if i did make a mistake, or commited an act that clashed with their sense of the law, it would be noticed, and i regarded as "different." everytime this happened i would be singled out and charged with explaining my actions, as if it was intentionally against the law; without me even knowing what the law (or all the codes) is.

i'm afraid i'm not explaining this very well, so i'll move on. the next image in the story is the gatekeeper. i think the gatekeeper has two possibilities. the first is a sort of "judgement," the continual judgement we are subjected to while in this society. everyone is subject to the judgement of others, for infractions of the law. but, since the man from the country doesn't know the law, everything he does is wrong (or rather, not in accordance with it), so he is continually being faced with this judgement. if he can master the law and live by its guidelines, the door would open and he would be an abberationless member of the society. without knowledge of th elaw, though, propability has it that he will slip up again and again, be identified as someone not "in the know" about this society, and regaled as an outsider, forced to sit alone on a stool outside society, wondering what the heck this law is all about, and why he doesn't know it. that's one possibility.

the second, i think, is more pervasive. the second possibility is that the gatekeeper could be the man's conscious. it could be that this society, as i believe it was in kafka's time, as well as in ours, is a very corrupt one, yet one that provides a comfortable existance to those within it. the society might be inherently wrong and evil, yet it is so large that is can bowl down any opposition, however right and just the opposition might be. therefore, even though the Good life would be outside of this society, lifeoutside the soceity would be incredibly difficult- especially to such a social creature as a human. the great debate then would be is the Good life worth all the pain and suffering it takes to live it, or is the pain and suffering just too much, and justifies one's crossover into the evil, yet more user-friendly (at least in the short-term) society; or the dark side, if you will.

if this is true, then the gatekeeper could be the man from the country's conscious, which he has to quite before it will allow him to enter the society, and live within the law. the man knows the "right" thing to do is to remain outside the society, and that the reason he wants to become a part of this society is that it is an easier life. so, he has to try to rationalize this to his guilty conscious, as to why he's selling out the Good life for the easier life. only he can make this descion, though, so only he can ever pass through the door- or chose to not pass through. the descion is his to make.

i hope all of this doesn't sound too far-fetched or moronic. i haven't read the story in awhile, so all of what i said above is based off what i thought of the sotry at the time, and what JCC and Toby's posts cajoled in me about it. i will go back and reread it tonight, but i do think some basis for this theory exists in the text. and i would like to appologize for the certianly inadequate nature of my explination. i admit my thoery is an abstract one, and i hope you can extrapolate enough to fill the holes- even if you don't agree with me, i at least want to make my ideas clear, so they can be commented on with understanding. now, if you understand what i'm talking about, you can probably stop there. however, someone reading the above ramblings didn't understand, and asked me a few additional questions, and if i could elaborate further, with paying stricter attention to specific elements of the story. below is my reply, and since i make references to the other message, i left some of his comments in, preceeded by ">," which should keep a sort of logical flow and help you understand. good luck.

> I'm willing to accept your depiction of the Law as etiquette, though > and would really love to try to reconcile it with my own > interpretation of the Law as etiquettelessness ... I find it kind of > interesting and funny that we could have come up with such very > different answers. In the model I've constructed, social rules are > exactly the thing that must be erradictaed before entry into the law > is possible...."Perhaps then, the Law is not freedom, but that through > which, in passing, one gains freedom.

here is an example of where i think we're saying the same thing, but from different points of view. one thing that might account for our differing viewpoints, i think, is that i don't really equate "the Law" with "the gate" in the story, and i think you do. i realize that the story heavily implies that what the doorkeeper is guarding in the story is the Law. i don't exactly know how, but in that model, the door/gate is the Law. but, that is not where i'm coming from. i am under the impression that the gate is the "goal" towards which this man is striving, and the Law is the basis against which he is being judged, by the doorkeeper, on whether or not he is worthy of admittance through the gate. this is the basis from which i am speaking, and if it is wrong, then i must necessarily also be wrong. i think my view is a possibilty, though, and i hope to explain why further on. but, this difference in our models

accounts for their apparent contradictory nature, but i think it can be reconicled, if the seperation of the Law and the gate is conceded.

from what i understand of your model, you are saying that we are being held down by this "law of etiquette" *the Law/gate+ (placed on us by what? society?) and until we relieve ourselves of this burden *pass through the gate+, we can never be free. it is in this way you see "freedom" as "etiquettelessness," in that we are no longer restricted- we obtain a person freedom, from prosecution, which was the goal from the start. is this correct?

now my model is similar, taking into account the seperation of the Law and the gate. in my view, the main goal of the man is to become accepted into society (society in a generic sense, mind you. i will not define it right now). he has thus far lived a life of solitude and persecution, and has been excluded form society- hence his being outside the gate. passing through the gate, then, is entering society, which is now (for whatever reason, which can be a whole different discussion) his goal. before he can enter society, though, he must be deemed "socailly acceptible" by the doorkeeper.

here, the doorkeeper, as well as the infinite series of susequent doorkeepers, are what i see as a metaphor for the continual testing this society charges each of its members with. these tests, though, should be no problem for someone who is truely a memeber of this society, and who truely belongs there. for someone who doesn't necessarily belong there, though, this never-ending testing would be excrutiating, for just when you feel you've learned something, you find there is still more you do not know. and, these things the man is being tested on, these things he needs to know, is "the Law." the "doorkeeper" (i put that in quotes now because i think he is the image for these continual test, coming from society as a whole, and not a special guardian detail. everyone you meet in society tests you, but not necessarily intentionally or overtly. more on this later) is evaluating him on how well he has mastered the Law, how well he understands this etiquette; basically, how well he'll fit into the society. therefore, he must be tested on, and pass, the Law before he can pass through the gate.

i think from that you should be able to understand what i'm talking about, regardless of whether you agree with it. so now, with these two models side by side, i will try to explain how they are similar. the problem or apparent conflict is that yours necessitates "etiquettelessness" before the goal, freedom, can be reached, and mine necessitates "adoption of etiquette" before the goal, acceptance, can be reached. however, what if we look at mine in the sense that the man, before he can adopt the society's rules of etiquette, he must abandon the rules of etiquette he currently follows in his solitary life. and say also, as any misanthrope would, that the solitary life is "better" than the life in society. this is because society is so obsessed with idiotic pursuits like material wealth, personal egos, superfical image and social standing, etc, that they lose sight of and interest in the things that are truely important (living a Good life, being kind and courteous to others and to nature, doing a good job, etc.), and that which can be focused on while living the solitary life- or just a life outside of society. so, to enter society, the man must throw down his previous lifestyle-etiquette (that of orderly living) and take up a new one (that of chaotic pleasure-seeking and meaningless appeasement). in this sense, your "etiquettelessness" fits in perfectly with my model- to live in socitey is to disregard every worthwhile universal law there is, and live helter-skelter-like in disharmony.

while this might not seem like your goal of freedom on the surface, let me also explain that connection, too. the goal of your model is freedom, whereas mine is acceptance into society. but, what does acceptance into society mean? to answer that, just look at what the opposite, or rejection from society, entails. think of it in terms of your average, american high school. the "in crowd" or "cool people" are the society to which all the other students supposedly aspire. those outside this society are suject to ridicule for being different, constant, pointless and uninstigated torture, being disallowed to sit at "their" lunch table or go to "their" parties, subject to impromtu examinations/made to answer if caught alone in the hallway by a group of the "in crowd," etc. the list goes on. all these things happen, though, because this man is not accepted by society. basically, he is singled out and highlighted by this society, because he is not a part of it, and restricted to what he can and cannot do, based on what they feel like doing to him. his goal, then, is to become a part of this society, to obtain the "freedom" that the members of society enjoy- going to the parties, walking freely and unafraid down hallways and into bathrooms, etc. so, the goal of my model is similar to yours- where as you seek personal freedom, my model seeks "freedom from persecution," which being a memeber of this society affords.

therefore, both of our models entail a throwing out of a good set of values and living in a state of disarray, for the sake of being able to live peacefully.

of course, an arguement can be made that living in this society is not actually being "free," and i would agree with that. in fact, that is part of my model, too. and this, i believe, is part of the reason the man in the story never passes through the door. as much as he _thinks_ he wants to, he truely knows that it's not worth it. it is tempting, though, that "freedom," and he spends his entire life debating the point.

> One of the things I noticed when I tinkered around with your model is > that it seems possible to say the doorkeeper is etiquette and that the > Law is intimacy without damaging any of the founding ideas.

so as not to contradict anything i said above, i will not say that the doorkeeper is etiquette. i think the doorkeeper (or rather, all the doorkeepers) is the man putting his understanding of the society's etiquette into practice. but, see, not really etiquette itself. however, i do really like your phrasing of the Law being intimacy; that is exactly it, if, by the Law, you mean acceptance into the society. once the Law is employed by soemone, they attain a "oneness" or belonging with the society that requires the Law.

> The Law as etiquette model seems to require one to posit some > unmentioned element. For instance, the man and the gatekeeper are > alone. If the door leads into a city, then why was not the city

> mentioned? If it doesn't, but leads into something like social > acceptance, then that posits a city around the scene-- or, in any > case, someone to be accepted by.

this is an easy one, i think. the answer is surrealism. think of this story being told as a dream- which usually have fuzzy edges, and normal common-sense rules donot always apply, nor does their absence elicit alarm. take "the metamorphosis," for example. gregor turned into a bug, yet no one really saw this as physically impossible. they were repulsed by the grotesqueness of gregor's new nature, and not dumbfounded by or questioning the physics, biology and chemistry behind it all. i think the same applies here. if this story is a "dream," then the need for a surrounding city, or a city beyond the gate, is irrelevant. so to are the facts that this man sat on a stool outside a gate for years and years, with no through to food, shelter from the weather, a place to go to the bathroom, what is happening to his family and friends, the need to pay bills and taxes, etc. i think these worldly concerns are ignored in the story to make way for the more important message- and if gregor can turn into an insect, then this man can sit in isolation with the gatekeeper.

however, another explination is possible, too. still in this surrealistic vein, i kind of see this story, not so much as a literal occurance, but as an account of the process it takes to sucessfully enter society. there is no physcial gate, and no physical gatekeeper. i think the man, while sitting on the stool, is actually the life-long internal struggle of the man, between what he knows is right, and what he knows is easy. chose one, and live a tought but righteous and Good life; chose the other, and lead a comfortable by insignificant and unjust life. this was the man's debate, which he could never resolve, and is why he was never allowed into the society (to enter the gate). to sucessfully satisfy the "gatekeeper" -> pass through the gate -> enter the society meant that this man must _fully_ and _completely_ embrace the Law. this is something that he, in good conscious, was not able to do, and so sat outside the gates of society his whole life.

this is metaphor, though, even within the story, i think. the man, in his real life, probably lived among people of his society, although he wasn't really one of them, or truely like them. he could see a difference between himself and them, and thus felt isolated and alone because of it- even though he lived with them. the phrase "alone in a crowd" comes to mind, as well as the tagline for the movie "school ties," which was "just because you're accepted doesn't mean you belong."

i can see the possibility for this story ever taking place is that this man did indeed live among people, in a city. but, he felt distant from his friends and family and coworkers. he felt no animosity towards them, and felt none in return, but he also never quite fit in. it seemed to him as if they were part of a special group that he had not been asked to join. he didn't agree with everything they did or with the way they livied their lives, but being so different all the time and always isolated was difficult, and he wondered what it would be like to be like them. to give up his lifestyle and what he thinks is important to be like them, and adopt their lifestyle. this leads to the internal struggle within the manthe struggle between being his true self and his desire for a sense of belonging and for the intimate friendships he sees all around him. this contorversy is not an easy one, though, and to truly be

accepted into "their society," he feels he must completely give up himself, which, in the end, he is unable to do. incidentally, i personally am glad the story ended the way it did. i don't think it's either a particularly happy or sad ending; i think it's the "right" and "just" ending. with this ending, the story is about everyone's need for acceptance and perhaps even validation, but with that always coming in as a lower priority than our true selves. the man wa snot willing to sacrafice what he knew to be true and right for his selfish longings. not that those longings are bad or unnatural, but they just are not as important as the Truth.

> Since these are not mentioned and it seems unnatural to posit them, > then we must conclude that the Law is what will allow him to commune > with the gatekeeper. Yet the gatekeeper acknowledges and speaks to > him: he is distant and slightly taunting, but not cruel. That leads > to the question: if the man from the country wants ultimatrly to > commune with the gatekeeper, then the law cannot be etiquette, and > becomes something more like deep understanding. The capacity for > etiquette then becomes the thing he must exhibit in order to be > accepted in. So... a postulation of the Law as etiquette leads to > the postulation of the Law as intimacy.

well, yes and no, i think. by this time, i feel like i am just repeating and repeating myself, which i do not want to subject you to. i think i answered this above already, but i'll try to paraphrase my reasoning- and also in response to the below question.

> I may be getting this muddled. If you'd be willing to map out a > series of correlations with textual elements, that'd help a lot. > For instance: what is the gatekeeper, what is the thing the man must > do to enter, what is the thing he wants to enter. And, since the > gatekeeper figures quite prominently in your model, what do the things > he says mean?

the man wants to be accepted into the society to obtain a sense of freedom and fraternity. to do this, he must pass the "gatekeeper's" (i explained what i feel is the nature of the gatekeepers above) test. to pass the test, though, he must not only understand the Law, but embrace it and internalize it completely, because only then will he truly fit in the society and allowed to be free. to do this, though, to internalize the Law, he _must_ forsake his true nature, and adopt this new one; thus, he must rework his personallity that does not currently fit in the society to one that will fit in the society,

which means he must become a new person. only he can make this choice- the choice to live his current life or die and begin a new and different one, basically. through this death/rebirth thing, he will obtain the intimacy he seeks. but this is the reason why only this man could ever pass through this door. he must decide for himself if he is willing to make this sacrafice, because it is his life. this is the relationship of all the things in the story, i think.

however, this leaves the conclusion of the story, the reason why the gatekeeper shut the door, unresolved. i can think of two reasons. the first deals with the man asking why no one else has sought entrance through this gate, and the gatekeep subesquently shutting the door. the man says "everyone strives to reach the Law, so how does it happen that for these many year no one but myself has ever begged for admittance." the gatekeepr's reply not only implies the indiviualist nature of these tests, but also, possibly, that the man's premise is not correct- perhaps not everyone does in fact strive to reach the Law. if this were known to the man, it might provide him with a sense of kinship he didn't feel before when he thought everyone else was also wanted to be a part of society. now, though, in the very fact that he cannot join society, he finds the intamcy he seeks- since everyone is a misfit like him, he no longer has need to pass through the door and enter society, as so that resolves the test.

the second idea has more to do with predestination than anything else. perhaps it was that the gatekeeper knew from the very begining that the man, because of his nature, could never join the society. then, the prolonged suffering and delibrations of the man merely becomes an act of cruelty on the part of the gatekeeper, who could have shut the door at any time and let the man get on about his life. of course, in my model, it is the man himself that controls the open/shut status of the door- the question of whether or not he wants to join society- so when he realizes that no one else seems to be going through what he is going through, he might give up out of desperation the hop eof ever joining society. i really don't know. i haven't quite worked this out, and i am getting tired now and finding it hard to concentrate any more.

> So, if the gatekeeper represents an entity with other modes of > communication and action-- other social codes-- then the becoming of > him is always a tool-gaining. in fact, the opposition and otherness > were signs only of the lack of specific tools.

before i go, though, i must say that i didn't really understand this paragraph of yours. what do you mean by "the becoming of him" and "tool-gaining"? i have a guess, which kind of fits with the last sentence, but i can't be sure. do you just mean that to use yet another analogy: say for instance the gatekeeper was bilingual (english and spanish), whereas the man and the society each only spoke one language- english and spanish respectively. because of the inability to communitate with the society, the man feels this opposition and otherness- a seperateness due solely to the language barrier. however, in speaking with the gatekeeper, who can speak both languages, the man finds out that he has to learn spanish to enter the society. thus, by becoming like the gatekeeper, he is gaining the "tool" of multilingualism, and thus can attain a "oneness" with those of the soceity.

to extend this, too, to incorporate our "differeing-yet-similar" model ideas from before, the man must adopt the new language which, until he understands it, it probably just jibberish (etiquettelessness), where his native language is full of understood etiquette. once he understands this jibberish, though, and no longerhas need for his previous "etiquette," he can move successfully into the society, freely speaking with them in their language. that makes sense.