Encounter with Kafka’s Red Peter

Franz Kafka, in his short story “A Report to an Academy”, presents the capability to transfer one’s life in response to circumstances. An ape, the narrator of the story, who has learned human traits, says, “One learns when one has to; one learns when one needs a way out; one learns at all costs.”

The narrator, named Red Peter, presents a report to an academy of scientists. He presents an account of his life explaining how he was captured, transported in the cage to Europe, learned the way human beings behave and how he was transferred to human like.

A hunting expedition shoots and captures him from West African jungle. Caged on a ship and taken to Europe, he finds himself for the first time without the freedom. In captivity, he had two alternatives- “the zoological gardens or the variety stage.” He chose the stage because, “the zoological garden means only a new cage; once there, you are done for.”

Soon he learnt to talk like a human. His stage performances enabled him to enjoy a distinctly human way of life. “When I come home late at night from banquets, from scientific receptions, from social gatherings, there sits waiting for me a half-trained little chimpanzee, and I take comfort from her as apes do”, he describes it in his report to the academy.He explains about what he learns, “With an effort which up till now has never been repeated I managed to reach the cultural level of an average European.”He learns all these because he has no alternatives to “way out”.

After capture, he realizes that escape was impossible. He decided to opt for something less than animal freedom- he even did not require freedom. He just wanted ‘a way out’. He tested his intellectual abilities fighting with severe suffering.

Moreover, the writer is trying to establish a contrast between two life forms.  His situation between two worlds is particularly tragic because he is actively involved in the human world during the day, in varieties of shows and lectures and by night, he sleeps with his half-trained chimpanzee mate.  Kafka has designed the story as the presentation of a learned paper before a scientific society, a paper in which the deliverer is engaged in describing his former life-style as an ape.

The chronological distance between the life reported upon and the actual life is just five years but the narrator points out, “an infinitely long time to gallop at full speed”. It means that the narrator has many experiences and adventures while learning human traits and in one report and lecture it is not possible to tell the story of his transformation.

At the end of the story the narrator says, “I have achieved what I set out to achieve.” But this unusual transformation was not an easy task for him as she points out that, “But do not tell me that it was not worth the trouble.”Imitating people’s behavior like smoking pipe, drinking rum and so on was not easy thing for Red Peter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *