To what does the “law” mean to you? To a woman assaulted on the street, the law is protection. To our kids growing up in America, the law is group of men and women that they aspire to be like when they grow up. Unless you are a teenager of course…then the law usually is come to thought of as a nuisance and unwanted. Though these are great interpretations of what the “law” is to others, in Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law”, it rather represents the distance between fear and freedom. Life or Death.
In this story, a man comes from the country to an open gate. On the other side of this gate sits what the man refers to as the law. Yet, there is a gatekeeper there to watch over it. The gatekeeper tells the man that it is possible for him to one day gain entry through the gate, but at this time he cannot obtain him access. The man then proceeds to spend the rest of his life at this gate waiting to be permitted to enter. While there, he continuously asks the gatekeeper to consent to letting him pass, and still he is not allowed. Many years later when the man is old and has gone blind, all he can see is the illumination form the gate. Nothing else, just pitch back darkness. Just as he is about to die he asks the gatekeeper why no one else had come to the gate in all of his years of waiting…the gatekeeper then responds by telling him this was his gate to enter and only his. He then closes the gate forever and the man seemingly dies without ever gaining entrance to the ‘law’.
Why is the man so weak? When he first approached the gate appears to have been wide open. Understandably, there is a gatekeeper who says, “If it tempts you so much try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the others. I can’t even endure one glimpse of the third.”(Kafka, 26) The man scared and haunted by what might be beyond that point cowers and waits. He seems to have been persuaded by the gatekeepers’ thoughts that unless he says you may pass that you cannot pass. If I were the man I would have gone right through that gate to find out what was on the other side. Obviously the law was important enough to waste his whole lifetime waiting to receive access to… so why would he not risk his life? The man even states with quite certainty, … “the law should be accessible to everyone…” (Kafka, 26) Obviously, he believed it, but was too frightened by the gatekeeper, as well as what was beyond to manifest his beliefs. Too many times in life people are succumb by fear of the unknown. Instead, why not take a chance? For the thing that you are apprehensive about might just set you free of any reservations.