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Realism can help or hamper a writer’s ability to get a point across. Realism is an intent to portray reality as it is and a lack of realism is represented by plot lines that never could happen. That can disengage you from a story rather than draw you further into it. For example, any book in the fantasy genre is highly unrealistic but there can still be realism in even though the stories themselves could never happen. When the actions of the characters are realistic, it doesn’t even matter whether the plot is true to life, because the people in it are real and act real enough and that’s what realism is. There are other writers who write about characters who act unnaturally and therefore we, as the readers, do not relate to the story as much, feeling that some of the actions of the characters are implausible. The result makes the plot feel forced or contrived. It’s important to have well-rounded characters whose motivations and reflections influence their decisions. A character’s quality of realism can make all the difference between an outstanding story and a confusing one.

One of the most surrealistic of all of Franz Kafka’s stories is “A Country Doctor.” In the conclusion of “ A Country Doctor,” the country doctor somehow ends up in a blizzard naked, alone, and unable to get to his destination. This is the final result of a series of bizarre events that seem to have no logic. Kafka presents us with a world that uses absurd logic to control its characters. The doctor is eventually manipulated by these unusual events until he has no hope left. This is corroborated in later parts of the story, where we meet horses that can travel supernaturally fast, the sick boy and his worm-filled wound, the singing homicidal school choir, and even the weather gives the impression of a malicious nature and of the ludicrous. These events would make the story sound disjointed and confusing if not for its beautiful imagery and the reasonable mental degradation of the doctor. It is logically unrealistic (oxymoron intended) but what anchors it is our belief in the doctor. He slowly loses himself and in the aforementioned naked ride through the snow, he is symbolically driven to helplessness. He cannot save Rose from the inexplicable groom, he cannot do anything about the boy’s wound, and there’s nothing he can do to reach his fur coat hanging on the back of the gig. This is a dark dream sequence covering as a story. It conveys the reality of a character driven mad by the absurdity that surrounds him.

Unlike the ample character analysis in “A Country Doctor,” Kafka’s “Before the Law” is less successful. In it, a man yeans to gain admittance to the Law and upon receiving rejection and knowledge of hidden dangers further on from the gatekeeper, just sits before the gate until he withers and dies. The story itself has intrigue and mystery and were it a much longer novel, I would be interested enough to keep reading. The plot itself is recycled and has been seen many times before a man tries in vain to gain entrance to what he desires however, unlike in other stories, he is never granted permission. Although the setting is somewhat logical, the actions of the man from the country is not at all identical with our perception of the inner workings of human beings. The man is the personification of persistence and the doorkeeper is the obstacle as well as the other more odious gatekeepers one could imagine later on. The Law is never really identified. It does not help that the readers are never sure what the law is from Kafka’s vague description, but the man from the country is a bigger problem. He is such a one-note character that I do not feel sympathy for him even when he dies. After he hears the dangers of pursuing the law he thinks, “ These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected (Pg. 148)” Then he just sits down and wastes his life away. How can someone not expect any difficulties in anything they want to pursue? It’s as if a painter who wishes to become successful hears about the hundreds of better artists there are and then decides to sit there and wait for all of the other painters to get worse. A normal person when faced with this type of situation would do one of two things one, give up after a while and leave or two, charge past all the gatekeepers in a reckless fashion and risk dying to see the law. It’s possible Kafka wants us to see how hopeless some people are where the only way to completely avoid failure is to never take a risk. The nonexistent plot drives this Kafkaesque world more than its characters and the story is lacking because of it. Real people do not act as Kafka portrays them and when I read this work I feel as if I’m pressured by Kafka to see things as he sees them. And Kafka and me, we don’t agree.

In contrast to Kafka’s stories, Frost’s writing is wholly and entirely realistic in nature and it’s understandable as well. This does not make his writing uninteresting (although some do not agree) but actually improves his work in comparison to Kafka and his techniques. Frost’s “ The Road Not Taken” is the story of a traveler who has two choices that will lead him to different paths in life but will ultimately leave him with the same feeling of regret. In a way, he actually has no choice at all. This is exactly how it is in life. Two choices that appear the same yet traveling down one means one cannot go to the other and either one brings regret at the end, no matter how happy the outcome. He said the pivotal line, “ I shall be telling this with a sigh (Pg. 105)” The real question is what kind of a sigh it is. The poem does not explicate further so it could be a sigh of regret for the road not taken or a sigh of gratification for the road taken. Frost leads the reader on in this wonderfully fun poem making us consider the angle at which he wrote it. He tells the reader many times that the roads are equal so how could we know the difference? This is what makes “The Road Not Taken” such a great poem. Frost lets the reader interpret the poem in any number of ways and in a fashion, we are given the same choices as the traveler. The right interpretation will make all the difference.

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare is one of the best plays of all time. It is one of the best because the play is entirely driven by its characters. Characters who act upon their desires, their anger, their emotions, and even their pretend emotions. The words can be hard to catch at times but every point in a scene is understood because all the character’s motives are so clear. A basic character has only so many facets to their personality (love, sadness, hate) but all the characters in Hamlet are filled to the brink with these facets, each existing in opposition (love-hate, love-betrayal, sadness-revenge). Add that to, what I call, the whole Pandoras box -- guilt, pride, grudging respect, rivalry, vengeance, jealousy, etc… and you’ve got many realistic characters. The common factor with many of the characters is alienation. Alienation from the lack of trust between people and from the deception of the royal family.

Hamlet is alienated from everyone because he knows a secret no one else knows; that his father was poisoned by his uncle to gain the throne of Denmark. When he says that, “ Denmark’s a prison,” (Act , Scene ) he feels that there’s no one in Denmark he can trust and that leads to thoughts of murder and even suicide. With the kind of problems he possesses, he has no one to turn to for help. Even his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are sent to spy on him. He frequently lashes out at others because he feels them ignorant of the real situation since he’s the only one who knows what’s really going on. He’s really just a coward preferring to crack jokes. His many rude and sarcastic comments to the people around him, giving them a little insight to what he’s really thinking. Oh yes, Hamlet is quite the joker, but Hamlet’s humor is bitter and lethal and is really just a facade, his only way of saying something close to what he’s feeling. Hamlet uses irony as a shield against his pain, and though you never forget his suffering, he is often terrifically funny. The only drawback is that he is too concerned with the killing itself, always trying to perfect it, but events are sometimes beyond his control. There are many times where he contemplates the death of Claudius and how to kill him but he never goes through with it. He is too self-critical, as well as intensely alert to others, and his quick reactions suggest a higher intelligence. His intelligence sets him apart, but it also traps him among people whom he needs to watch out for. So Hamlet is thrown on to his own inner resources. Self-knowledge becomes less a moral virtue than an aid to survival. But Hamlet knows he is teetering at the edge of breakdown. The real insider whom everyone considers to be the outsider. But what’s the difference? He is the example everyone has of themselves when they think themselves outsiders. He’s a sane man playing a mad one but one who’s about to become mad anyway.

When we first meet Ophelia at the beginning of Hamlet, she has a happy life. She has her boyfriend, Hamlet, her father, Polonius, and her brother Laertes, all of whom she loves very much. But of course, no good thing lasts and one by one they are all taken away from her. Hamlets progress toward madness and murder, both hesitant and rash, destroys first these loving relationships and then the people themselves. She has such ambivalent feelings toward Hamlet and she is so sorrowful that she goes mad with grief. And who could blame her? First she is forbidden to see Hamlet, then she is virtually blamed for his “madness”, then he kills her father Ophelias fate is sealed. There is no easy solution to the many problems that surround her. Shakespeare already made the other characters resort to violence when they were cornered so he could have easily made her do the same thing. However, Shakespeare knew it wasn’t in her personality to do that so the only way for a person, who was so burdened with guilt and grief, to ease the pain was to commit suicide. This way, she did both a brave and cowardly thing; punishing herself but also taking the easy way out to escape further pain. A very ambiguous and sensible action.

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