In this article, Ong continues his analysis of the writer Franz Kafka, whom he first discusses in "Kafka's Castle in the West."  While "Kafka's Castle in the West" focuses on the pertinence of Kafka's writing to a Judeo-Christian audience, this article hones in on the more pointed question:  Did Kafka believe in God?

Using Max Brod's Franz Kafka, A Biography (1947) as a source, Ong looks at the question of Kafka's belief in God via the themes of irony and frustration in his work.  In both The Trial and The Castle, irony is at work through the situations the protagonists find themselves in, and frustration is at work because the protagonists cannot figure out how to change their situations.  Ong believes that the theme of frustration originates directly from Kafka's life as a Jew (a symbol for the rejection of possible truth all humans, regardless of religious background, make at some point in their lives) and as a worker in a highly bureaucratic field.

Through an exploration of the theme of frustration in Kafka's life and work, Ong draws the conclusion that while it is impossible to determine whether or not Kafka believed in God, it is evident that Kafka at least confronted the reality of God.  He clearly rejected the Manichean notion that God sinned when creating the world, but he seemed to accept the Christian notion of an "I-Thou" relationship between God and humans.  Ong also believes that perhaps Kafka was influenced by the Hasidic idea that reality could be explained completely.

This last idea, which Ong sees manifesting itself in Kafka's obsession with perfectionism in his works, shows that although Kafka "distracted" himself from the ultimate question of God's existence, Kafka should be admired for coming as close as one can to accepting God without actually doing it.
 

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