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The Burrow and Investigations of a Dog, Short Stories by Franz Kafka

Kafka continues the anthropomorphic metaphor to consider the life of a solitary mammalian predator; a predator that is large enough to consider a rat easy pray. The character begins to describe, from the first person point of view, his life. He paints a finely detailed picture of underground dwelling, the voice of the narrator is content and self congratulatory as we are given a guided tour of his fine burrow. He has so much food he needs to make additional room for it all.

Once the construction work is complete the burrower leaves the burrow. When preparing to return he considers the danger attendant upon entering his burrow alone. Eventually, after keeping the burrow under surveillance, and digging another entrance, he returns to the burrow. He seems contented.

The solitary nature of his existence may or may not be natural for the species under consideration, we are not told; neither are we told why, if it is not natural, he would choose isolation. Certainly there is no contact with any other members of his species in the text. The story is partly a detailed study of the affect isolation has upon the psyche of the first person narrator. As he becomes aware of “small fry” burrowing and making a noise near the “Castle Keep” he begins to exhibit signs of paranoia. His burrow becomes increasingly untidy as he digs experimental trenches as a means of finding the noisome intruders. This noise could, of course, be imagined by the narrator. The narrator himself concedes that the noise could be emanating from a water pipe. Later on he believes the noise has grown louder, he comes to believe that the creature or creatures making the noise must be powerful, and eventually thinks he may die fighting to protect his burrow. He even stops eating for a time.

In both this story and Investigations of a Dog Kafka ends the piece with a contemplative solitary animal considering their environment.

Dog says, in Investigations of a Dog, that he “…prize[s] freedom higher than anything else.” (Kafka, 1961, p. 126). In The Burrow what initially is shown to be a place of peace and sanctuary becomes a place of fear. A place that is watched and listened to by unknown intruders. In this place the main character becomes obsessed with noises that had not registered previously. In the same way that the dog is distorted physically by his desire to fast so too is the burrower. However it is his mind that is affected. We are not told the reason for the self imposed underground exile – and it it reasonable to believe that the main character can live outside at times because he does so on occasions in the text – but its consequence is to make him belive that he is being pursued by “a beast”. He continues to dig his trenches quietly, does not leave the burrow and listens for the beast. As the main character says in the last line of the text, “But all remains unchanged.” (Kafka, 1961, p. 166).

Both stories could be seen as studies of the extremes of individuality and the psychological and physiological consequences of isolation from the crowd. Both characters seek freedom. The dog seeks knowledge and understanding empirically, and consequently is continually disappointed; the burrower seeks perfect isolation, only to find a form of imprisonment and surveillance by an unknown beast.

Kafka, F (1961) Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Penguin Modern Classics: London

One Response to “The Burrow and Investigations of a Dog, Short Stories by Franz Kafka”

  1. Terry Finley Says:

    Interesting in how these stories are put together.

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