Franz Kafka

A Report to an Academy

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A Report to an Academy Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 22-page guide for the short story “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Delusion Versus Desire and Civilization Versus Freedom.

“A Report to an Academy” is a short story by Bohemian writer Franz Kafka. Kafka wrote and published the story in 1917, and it first appeared in the German magazine Der Jude. In 1919, it appeared in Kafka’s A Country Doctor, a collection of short stories. It has been adapted to the stage numerous times.

Red Peter, who was born an ape, but now considers himself to be human, narrates the story. It is a presentation to the Academy, which has asked Red Peter to report on his earlier life as an ape in Africa. Red Peter tries to reflect on this experience, but it has been nearly five years since he was an ape, and he has mostly forgotten what it was like. In his attempts to become human, he has worked hard to relinquish all traces of his ape identity. He notes that the academics in the audience also evolved from apes, and that he is similarly distant from his simian roots.

After his capture, he quickly learned how to give a handshake, which “displays candor” (2). Though he doesn’t remember much from his youth, his ability to learn to shake hands “demonstrates the direct line by which someone who was an ape was forced into the world of men, in which he established himself firmly” (2).

He is from Africa’s Gold Coast, where a European hunting expedition captured him. He doesn’t clearly remember the experience and relies on the reports of strangers to inform him about how it happened. He now drinks wine with Hagenbeck, who led the expedition.

Red Peter was shot once in the cheek, which left a red scar that compelled the hunters to give him his name. He hates this name, which he shares with another trained ape named Peter, who recently died. He was also shot in the hip, which is why he has a slight limp. He is disgusted by “one of the ten thousand gossipers” (2) in the newspapers who claims that his ape nature is still apparent because he pulls down his pants to show people his scar. This criticism angers Red Peter, who argues that this writer “should have each finger of his writing hand shot off one by one” (2).

After being shot, Red Peter woke up in a cage on Hagenbeck’s steamship. He was tightly confined, and the cage’s bars cut his flesh when he’d try to turn. In retrospect, he acknowledges that this was an effective way to start taming his wildness. While confined, he realized that “for the first time in was without a way out” (3). Later, the men told him that he was usually quiet, which made it seem like he would die soon. Now, he can only describe his apish feelings with human words, which are misrepresentative.

Red Peter decided that he must come up with a “way out” (3) and realized that he must become human to attain this goal. In his speech, he notes that a “way out” is not the same as freedom. He still does not demand freedom and believes that humans are often deceived by the notion that they are free. He now sees that his calmness in the cage is what established his path toward the accomplishments he has made in life. Looking back, he now believes he “owe that calmness to the people on the ship” (4). He considers his captors to be “good people, in spite of everything” (4).

He recalls that his captors complained about his fleas but did enjoy him as a spectacle, and sometimes “would pick up a stick and tickle liked it” (4). Though he would not be interested in again making that voyage, he notes that his memories from the trip do not entirely fill him with…

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