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Kafka and the Uncanny Essay

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Updated: Nov 29th, 2018

Sigmund Freud, a famous and recognized psychologist focuses largely on the representation of the uncanny, a mysterious experience that cannot be explained, but that happened in the past. Although this experience is well established, it is repressed by our consciousness, but later flashbacks in an unexpected disguise. These explanations are typical of Franz Kafka stories representing inexplicable and even mysterious experiences.

Despite the fact that Kafka was not the support of psychoanalysis and its positive influence on neurotic mind, his story still relies on numerous examples of the uncanny. As an example of the uncanny, it is possible to refer to Kafka’s novel The Trial through generalization and abstract representation of the archaic Court that interferes with Josef K’s rational and conventional world.

In this context, the uncanny nature of the law is presented through recurrence of family, yet abstract manifestations of hero’s guilt that is disguised in an irrational way. Specific attention requires the moment when Joseph decides to visit the Court, as it was previously resolved and appointed by the court agents. However, the uncanny events are happening to the hero as he starts searching for the Court.

The first moment is that no information has been mentioned concerning the time of arrival to the place, except for the address. Despite this uncanny moment, Joseph K strives to adhere to a common sense and decide to visit the appointed place at nine in the morning because it is a logically presumed time for starting all court procedures. Another strange thing is that the hero sets out to the Court on Sunday, the day when people are not expected to go to work.

Nevertheless, Joseph K makes inquiries and finds the building with multiple doors and stairwells which make it difficult for him to find the right room. When, he finally finds the room in which court procedures are carried out, Joseph is a bit surprised at the number of people and the hall interior. The court is located in the attic; it is quite stuffy and does not look like an ordinary court.

With regard to the above-presented experience, the interrogation scene introduces surreal and mysterious representation of the location. In addition, the depiction of the murmuring masses, stony silence, and hidden signs also contributes to the uncanny atmosphere.

The scene reminds more of the dream in which the hero is lost while looking for the right place. Joseph suffers from suffocation and lack of fresh air. At the same time, this experience is not a dream because the people sitting in the room consider the trial seriously and strive to make sense of their actions.

Most of heroes represented in the building are described with a realistic accuracy, as if everything that Joseph does is rational. Yet, the uncanny combination of Joseph’s realistic perception and mysterious and irrational representation of judicial system contributes to Kafka’s fictional style of writing. In the attempt to reason the situation, Joseph questions, “Were the court offices here, in the attic of this tenement, then?” (Kafka 110). However, this question was never logically answered in the story.

In conclusion, Kafka’s The Trial is a bright representation of the uncanny and the real world. Combining mysterious and realistic experience provides a new outlook on the story and on unconventional perception of strange events. Although the protagonist of the story strives to act logically and in accordance with the common sense, the court system manages to break the accepted norms and create a new dimension of reality.

Works Cited

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. US: Echo Library, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Kafka and the Uncanny." November 29, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/kafka-and-the-uncanny/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Kafka and the Uncanny." November 29, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/kafka-and-the-uncanny/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Kafka and the Uncanny'. 29 November.

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