Amerika Literary Elements

Amerika Literary Elements


Allegory, novella

Setting and Context

New York city, 1920s.

Narrator and Point of View

Fixed third person narration, from the point of view of the young immigrant, Karl Brußmann.

Tone and Mood

The tone of this book is Kafka-esque in its absurdity. It offers crazy scenarios as casual and normal while stressing the typical and mundane as grandiose and demanding. The mood achieved is brooding and frustrated.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Karl Brußmann is the protagonist. The main antagonists are his acquaintances throughout the novel who take advantage of Brußmann.

Major Conflict

Brußmann struggles to find work in the paradigmatic city of New York c. 1920. His work when he finds it is meaningless, absurd and ultimately fragile, leading to quick turn-overs and compromising scenarios.


The work is believed to be unfinished, but as is, the climax seems to be in the last scenes of the novel when Brußmann decides to take a position as a worker in a theatre company based in Oklahoma.


The stoker's frustration seems telling in the beginning of the novel. The fact that Karl's first encounter is with someone whose work is tiring and absurd and who has just been fired is foreshadowing of Brußmann's own story, one of frustration and frequent dissatisfaction.


The book seemingly understates the strangeness of the absurd, such as the scenarios surrounding his encounter with his uncle and the weird little odd jobs that characters in the book take to make ends meet. These types of understatements are also present in the ironic story of Brunelda, a wealthy fat woman surrounded by poor, frustrated people.


The work seems at least aware of Nietzsche and his philosophy, and seems interconnected with themes from the absurdist or existential camps. But the work is very early and paradigmatic in its own right, leading to new and inventive systems. Most of the references in the book are to typical understandings which Kafka seeks to undo.
One literary allusion that seems strong is the characters of Robinson and Delamarche as Rosencrantz and Gildenstern typed characters.


The imagery of city life, street lurkers, spotted occasionally by the wealthy and successful. The city is portrayed in light of its frustration, its chaos and the difficulties common to urbanized America. Images evoked include furnace rooms, hotel lifts going up and down, cars swarming the streets in never-ending, futile chaos.


The work is substantially paradoxical. The immigrant is not coming to America to escape poverty--he is escaping controversy by way of poverty.
Another paradox is that he is generous despite having very little. Not only that, he is generous to those who are easiest to dismiss as underserving. Paradox emphasizes the argument posed, that the only people willing to be generous cannot afford to make much of a difference, and those who are willing to be helped are not reliable enough to make those investments worth-while.


The jobs taken by Brußmann are parallels of the work of the stoker introduced early in the narrative. The frustrations offered by city life are paralleled to Karl's capture by Brunelda, and his freedom from one limit implies freedom from the other.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The work is allegorical or argumentative, meaning that the entirety of the story is meant to be synecdochic to some argument, but that notwithstanding, the work contains these elements. For instance, the stoker is a metonymy equivocating one's identity with one's occupation, which is thematic concern of the book. The lowly are represented synecdochically by Robinson who relies upon Brußmann for his well-being. The frustration of job-security and the search for meaning in occupation is also offered through the synecdochic image of the stoker.


The city is personified as a force with concerns and dark intentions for the population it thrives upon. Consider images like the one Brußmann observes from his flat window, where the city is seen as being heartless, eating people as quickly as they rush in to fill the new space.

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