Leni’s Hand: Animality and Redemption in Kafka’s Women


  • Carlo Salzani University of Innsbruck Author




Franz Kafka, patriarchy, feminine figures, The Trial, animality, redemption


Kafka’s world is a male world, where women play purely marginal and auxiliary roles and do not possess autonomy but are mere projections of the demons hunting Man. Authority, hierarchy, and the Law have a markedly patriarchal structure: only men are officials, directors, judges, lawyers, and accused; women gravitate at the margins of these structures and thereby mark their boundaries. Placed at the margins of Humanity, they also mark its boundary with Animality; they are, as Deleuze and Guattari write, the “leftover” of the becoming-animal. As boundary figures, they are essentially promiscuous, ambiguous beings, and their distinctive promiscuity is their sexuality. This sexuality is used by and exchanged among the male characters in a circulation of women (quite traditional although hyperbolically exasperated in Kafka’s obsessive world), reaching its paradigmatic climax in The Trial. Here, a feminine figure, Leni, nurse and housekeeper of the lawyer Huld, can be taken as a paradigm of Kafka’s women: she is not only sexually promiscuous but also physically animalized through a little deformation of her right hand. Through an analysis of Leni's character, this article proposes a reading of Kafka’s female characters, placed at the intersection between animality and redemption.