Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The sins of the sons: a comparative analysis of guilt, atonement and redemption in Kafka's Die Verwandlung and Thomas Mann's Der Erwahlte with reference to Hartmann von Aue's Gregorius

By Helen Elizabeth Hunter


This thesis presents a comparative analysis of Kafka‟s Die Verwandlung and Thomas Mann‟s Der Erwählte, two texts linked by their respective relationships to Hartmann von Aue‟s Gregorius. Bearing in mind this background source, it seeks to illuminate the complex issues of guilt, atonement and redemption addressed in both texts, through their consideration within a familial context. Like Hartmann‟s „good sinner‟, Kafka and Mann‟s protagonists occupy a curious position between guilt and innocence, suffering for sins for which they are, at most, partially culpable. Examining the origins of guilt in each text, it becomes clear that their predicament is inseparable from their filial roles: since a crisis of role distinctions within the family in each case predates and motivates the son‟s actions, he appears caught in a chain of transgressions, and burdened with inherited guilt as with original sin. The protagonist‟s ordeal may thus be read as a representative act of atonement, whereby the son removes in his person the communal guilt he bears, liberating the family. Ultimately, however, each author presents a very different familial redeemer: while Mann‟s filial saviour is resurrected and reintegrated, Kafka‟s protagonist is a true scapegoat, irrevocably excluded in death

Topics: PT Germanic literature
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1997). Der Erwählte – Thomas Manns postmoderner Ödipus?‟, Colloquium Helveticum,
  2. (1985). Der verhörte Held: Verhöre, Urteile und die Rede von Recht und Schuld im Werk Franz Kafkas
  3. (1983). Die Verwandlung’: Erläuterungen und Dokumente (Stuttgart: Reclam,
  4. (1974). Gesammelte Werke in dreizehn Bänden (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer,
  5. (1989). Incest in Medieval Literature and Society‟, Forum for Modern Language Studies, doi
  6. (1974). Kafka and Nietzsche doi
  7. (1951). Kafka: Pro und Contra: Die Prozeß-Unterlagen
  8. (1972). Kleinere deutsche Gedichte des 11. und 12. Jahrhunderts,
  9. (1991). The development and vicissitudes of Freud‟s ideas on the Oedipus complex‟,
  10. (2010). Zur Geneologie der Moral: Eine Streitschrift (Leipzig:

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.