Franz Kafka, one of the best known 20th century literary figures, has a unique writing
style that has been widely influential and is worthy to emulate. The objective of this
paper is to analyze and pull apart the various aspects of Kafka’s style, and concurrently critique
my own attempt to imitate Kafka’s style. I will explore the aspects of Kafka’s work (primarily
Metamorphosis) from the very basic elements of style to literary techniques, and explain my
attempt to utilize these same elements in my own work of short fiction The Infinite Desert.
First, examining the very basic elements of style in both Metamorphosis and The Hunger
Artist, a distinct stylistic approach becomes clear. In terms of syntax, Kafka likes to write very
long sentences. While I’m tempted to refer to this stylistic choice as stream of consciousness,
it really does not fall under that definition. While he writes in long (and I mean really long)
sentences, there isn’t that sense of disjointed ideas and thoughts. Specifically speaking of
Metamorphosis, Gregor’s thoughts are not presented in a rambling way; his thoughts are not
streaming together. They are clearly and carefully expressed. Stream of consciousness, in my
experience, can be difficult to follow and comprehend, but this narrative is very clear and
comprehendible in this sense.
In the same vein, Kafka’s diction has certain clarity as well, which seems to help to
intensify the fantastical element of his work. His writing is very straightforward and simple
without heavy figurative language. It is not too wordy. It is also very formal. Take for example
the opening lines from The Hunger Artist, “In recent decades the public’s interest in the art of
fasting has suffered a marked decline. While formerly it used to pay very well to stage large
exhibitions of this kind under private management, today this is quite impossible.” The
language is not overly academic or intellectual, and it isn’t flowery and littered with figurative
language like other authors’ I’ve read. Kafka’s diction feels sophisticated in its simplicity.
This simplistic and formal diction is an aspect of Kafka’s style that I tried to imitate in my
own story. Though, my imitation is not perfectly executed. My own diction is probably a bit too
academic at times, which works to create a somewhat different tone. Kafka probably would
have thought that words such as “indefatigable” and “torrid” were unnecessary.
The formality of Kafka’s diction helps to establish a formal and generally objective tone,
which seems to add to the prominent themes of alienation and isolation in Metamorphosis (as
well as in other works). Though, the tone that Kafka creates in this particular work is more
complex than that. At times some subtle, dark humor seeps into the narrative. One such
example of this dark humor is when Gregor’s father attacks him by throwing fruit at him and
one apple becomes lodged in Gregor’s back. He continued to suffer...