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Throughout the narration of his character's experiences, Kafka holds in suspension European, urban, and early twentieth-century masculine attitudes towards woman and transforms these attitudes by presenting Grete and mother Samsa in the roles of Gregor's caretakers and feeders and then revealing their rebellion against these roles.

I am not sure what does "holds in suspension" mean? Is the meaning of the sentence that Kafka's attitude towards women does not differ from the standards of his time?

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    Needs more context. Is this a writer referring to a character in a book? What does the author of the phrase you posted say after that? – Danegraphics Dec 16 '14 at 19:28
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    Try reading "holds in suspension" as "suspends", and see if you can understand the passage better. – Damkerng T. Dec 16 '14 at 20:23
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In chemistry, a suspension is a kind of mixture whose components do not dissolve. The meaning here would be that European, urban, and early twentieth-century attitudes towards women are all present, but distinct.

Alternately, "suspension" could refer to suspending the ideas in mid-air. I'm not sure exactly what that would mean in this context. This kind of suspension normally implies a lack of change, but the next part of the sentence is about transforming the attitudes.

Maybe the author was just being pretentious and thought the phrase sounded impressive. They are writing an essay on Kafka, after all. :-)

  • In looking at the context given, I don't believe either of your alternatives are correct. – bruised reed Dec 17 '14 at 9:09
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From the context, I believe the meaning is derived one of the defintions of the verb suspend (as per Damkerng T's comment):

2b : to set aside or make temporarily inoperative < suspend the rules > - merriam-webster.com

In other words, Kafka's description of the roles of women in his work is not determined by any "rules" (norms, mores, expectations etc.) set by "European, urban, and early twentieth-century masculine attitudes" (as they are temporarily made - or considered to be at least - inoperative), rather he conceives of the roles as derived from the more novel (not necessarily realistic - possibly surrealistic) paradigm of rebellious caretaker and feeder.

  • That may very well be what the author meant. The problem with this interpretation is that the next part of the sentence says that the attitudes are transformed, which implies that they were present and active before. To me, the sentence sounds like a sequence of events. First Kafka "holds in suspension... attitudes towards women... by presenting Grete and mother Samba in the roles of Gregor's caretakers and feeders". Then Kafka "transforms these attitudes by... revealing their rebellion against these roles." There's a parallel between "holds... presenting" and "transforms... revealing". – Adam Haun Dec 17 '14 at 15:18

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