Franz Kafka the Trial Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3521 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Business - Law

¶ … Trial by Franz Kafka is a typically existential work. Although abandoned before completion, the work nevertheless succeeds in depicting its themes of senselessness, hopelessness and the victimization that results in these feelings. The main character of the story, Joseph K. moves through a number of often surreal sequences focusing on his "arrest" and trial. The work ends with the protagonist's death, to which neither the reader nor Joseph K. can attach a large amount of meaning. Indeed his death, like the sequence of his life throughout the novel, appears senseless. This senselessness evokes in the reader a sort of horror. K. is obviously a character that has done well for himself in the world. He has a respectable professional position, attempts to do the right thing when he feels that this is called for, and moves through life like any law-abiding citizen. He was therefore wholly unprepared for the shock of reality when he realizes that the warrant for his arrest is not, after all, a practical joke. This sense of shock increases throughout Kafka's work, and is symbolized by the increasing amount of surrealism with which the reader and the unfortunate protagonist are bombarded.

By using surrealism, together with symbols such as stale air, Kafka impresses upon the reader the complete helplessness of the accused who does not know his crime and can therefore not sufficiently defend himself. The reader is led from puzzlement at the beginning of the novel to an increasing sense of horror, which culminates in the ultimate despair of the protagonist's death.

In Chapter 1, Kafka engages the reader right away by a puzzling situation. The main character, Joseph K. is upset in his routine by the failure of his breakfast to appear at the expected hour. At this early stage, Kafka already indicates Joseph K.'s future state of mind by the slightly paranoid statement: "Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested." (Kafka 1). The statement also indicates K.'s tendency to assume his own superiority over those who would spread such lies. He assumes the worst without any reason for such an implication.

The Chapter also foreshadows the surreal and inexplicable events to follow throughout the book. The situation moves from bad to worse when an unknown man informs him that there is a warrant for his arrest. Together with the reader, Joseph K. At first assumes to be the victim of an elaborate practical joke by his co-workers. It is interesting that the reader realizes before K. does that the situation is indeed much more serious than the protagonist initially assumes.

Another interesting element in the novel is the element of names. Joseph's surname is never revealed; through most of the novel, he is only known as 'K'. This element helps the reader to identify with him, despite the various flaws he displays throughout the novel. Indeed, the reader is continually moved between pity, identification and a sense of revulsion at K.'s traits and adventures. He is for example at times portrayed as a particularly curt and arrogant, with a somewhat superior air towards those he believes are inferior to himself. These people are mostly officials form the constrictive court that becomes an increasing part of K.'s life as the novel progresses. It is significant that he feels superior to the officials both at the beginning and at the end of the novel. Yet they exert the power of life and death over K., in the end leaving him no choice but to accept his fate.

The fact that K. is not named specifically, and also portrayed as a human being with a number of flaws, helps the reader to identify with him all the more and share in the resigned horror of the final scene. Chapter 1 then serves the function of introducing the extent of K.'s trouble to the reader, and also the way in which he reacts to the problem. He acts as a decent concienscious man towards those he feels have been inconvenienced by his morning adventures.

In terms of the arrest itself, K. gradually realizes the gravity of his situation, although at this early stage he cannot truly fathom the reality of it. Kafka creates a dichotomy in his protagonist not only of the reader's diversity of reactions to the character himself, but also in the question of his guilt. The reason for K.'s initial arrest and ultimate death is never revealed. Yet he speculates regarding his presumed guilt. In the back of his mind, there is a sense that he could possibly have broken the law without meaning to, or given the Court the inclination to single him out for persecution.

Still, Kafka goes to some length to describe the complete corruption of the Court, which entirely overshadows any wrongdoing that K. might have been guilty of. Indeed, K. has taken the law, order and justice within his society for granted as the framework within which he has achieved professional success. Hence he is unable to truly fathom the extent of his problems until later in the narrative.

Chapter 2 introduces further surreal elements to demonstrate the senselessness of K.'s trial and subsequent death. He is given a day on which to appear before the Court, but not a time. This sense of randomness is exacerbated by the fact that he cannot find the Courtroom, as the address he had been given comprises a building with various staircases and living areas. There is no indication of the location of the actual courtroom. It is ironic then, after having made the effort to arrive at 9a.m., he finally arrives in Court only at 10, and is then accused of being late. Perhaps it is indicative of the strength of his character that K. refuses to be drawn into an argument and simply states: "Well maybe I have arrived late, I'm here now." (Kafka 14)

With these words, he reacts rationally to a wildly irrational situation. He does however lose his composure later, when it appears that the whole crowd was against him, and only pretended to be on his side.

Another repetitive motif throughout the novel is the stuffy, oppressive air surrounding the Court premises. Whenever K. enters the Court meeting hall, or is in the vicinity of Court officials, he feels out of breath and sickened by the air that is too thick for him. This element marks the entire duration of K.'s relationship with the Court. The oppression of the air indicates the fact that the Court is not only a stuffy, old, traditional establishment, but also one that oppresses. K.'s previously-held position towards justice and fairness is completely destroyed by the reality of the oppression perpetrated by the Court. Chapter 2 then begins the theme of oppression that surrounds the Court, as well as the unfairness and entrapment perpetrated by this establishment.

Chapter 3 establishes K.'s relationship to women, which is also a theme continued throughout the novel. This theme is however somewhat incomplete and unsatisfactory, and critics tend to assume that Kafka's failure to finish the novel is to blame for this. The incompletion of K.'s relationships with women however could also indicate a deeper theme: His death, being premature and utterly without meaning or reason, renders his life both incomplete and meaningless. He has no time to establish meaningful relationships or resolve conflicts in his life. The young Fraulein Burstner, especially as she appears in Chapter 4, is symbolic of this.

In Chapter 3, however, establishes the tendency towards emptiness in K.'s attempted liaisons with women. K. attempts once again to attend a Court gathering, but finds the meeting hall empty, with a cleaning woman going about her duties. This woman practically throws herself at K. before her lover arrives. K. is tempted to fight for her, but not sufficiently so to move him towards action when it appears that the woman is happy to be abducted by her lover. Although K. reflects that he would very much like to have relations with her, this desire is not adamant enough to become part of K.'s reality. Indeed, not even the possibility of revenge on the Magistrate is sufficient motivation. He fantasizes quite clearly about how the judge would return to an empty bed, because K. had stolen her from him: "Maybe then, after much hard work writing dishonest reports about K., the judge would go to the woman's bed late one night and find it empty." (Kafka 21).

This was however not to be, as K. could not summon the energy even to overpower a thin, weak-looking student. This tendency towards lethargy is prophetic of the outcome of K.'s trial. The Court tends to drain the energy from its victims, and this is what gradually happens not only to K., but to all aspects of his life. Chapter 3 also takes the issue of air further. K. ascends upstairs to the law offices, but feels physically ill… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Franz Kafka the Trial.  (2007, April 4).  Retrieved December 19, 2018, from

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"Franz Kafka the Trial."  4 April 2007.  Web.  19 December 2018. <>.

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"Franz Kafka the Trial."  April 4, 2007.  Accessed December 19, 2018.