Emerging From Claustrophobia: The Landscape of Redemption

The Bible's notion of the "promised land" has had a profound influence on secular literature. Modern authors have reinterpreted this biblical ideal to include any land of redemption or salvation. This is an important concept in both Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Kafka's Amerika. While these novels present very different images of the Promised Land, both focus on the protagonist's sense of claustrophobia until the moment of deliverance. Thus, whether their deliverance is mental or physical, both protagonists' salvations lay ultimately in a sense of spatial freedom.

Amerika begins with a corrupted ideal of America as the land of redemption. Karl goes abroad because he has inadvertently impregnated a servant; he is sent away to escape from paternity charges and his societal sin. Parallels can be drawn between Karl and the biblical Joseph, who also must leave his home because he is similarly blamed for an older woman's sexual advances. When Karl arrives in America, he is greeted by a bright light: "a sudden burst of sunshine seemed to illumine the Statue of Liberty, so that he saw it in a new light. (3)" This can be likened to the Israelites' exodus, which is guided by a pillar...

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