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“The Trail” a Novel by Franz Kafka Essay

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2020

The Trial is one of the best-known novels written by Franz Kafka, which reveals the situation when a man is arrested and prosecuted for the things one did not conduct. The story begins with the Josef K’s birthday. Two agents from the unknown organization arrest him on this day without any explanations. Josef continues to manage his life as usual because the agency is sure that he will not escape (Gioia par. 3). He is brought to trial and attended at home and work. All this time Josef tries to find out what has happened and why he was arrested, but the truth remains uncovered. Once the priest tells him the fable “Before the Law”, which symbolizes the K’s attempts to find out what is happening.

The law system described in the Trial seems to be rather inconsistent, which correlates with the reality of Hamburg faced by the author. Due to the inefficient procedure Czechs and Jewels were often arrested and punished even though their guilt was not proved (Meyer 52). The story reveals similar events and tells that “someone must have slandered Josef K, for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested” (Kafka 1).

It proves that the action happened unexpectedly and that the legal procedure was not maintained decently by the representatives of the agency. Moreover, the sentence is not announced even when K was killed, and it is put into operation without a right to appeal. The influence of the authorities seems to be enormous, as they can follow him no matter where he is without any permission. K’s physical and mental state worsens because of constant pressure, and the court office seems to be a cage for him where “the air … was extremely oppressive, those standing furthest away could hardly be seen through it” (Kafka 32).

The power of the authorities makes the general public vulnerable, as they use it to limit people’s freedom. Such influence makes Josef see the agents everywhere, in every person. The lawyer that is to fight for the K’s rights does not really participate in the events, and his contribution can be hardly seen. It is crucial for every person to know why one is blamed, but in this case, Josef receives only vague answers “our department, as far as I know, and I know only the lowest level, doesn’t seek out guilt among the general population, but, as the Law states, is attracted by guilt has to send us…” (Kafka 1). This quote also proves that the justice system consists of people who act without realizing the reasons for their actions and those who hold the power. K seems to deal only with the lowest level because in this way he will have no opportunity to change the system.

The Trial shows the world in which all power belongs to the Court, which decisions cannot be questioned. Such things are the examples of the totalitarian state, where all aspects of life are controlled by the government. This approach seems to be wrong in the perspective of the just society, as it sees the justice as “the having and doing of one’s own and what belongs to oneself” (“Plato’s Just State” 3). The law is to protect the general public and find out the real core of the issues instead of being authoritarian and maintaining kangaroo court.

Being arrested Josef thinks that he is to prove his innocence while the real task is to prove his right to existence in the world. The divine court shows him what is waiting for the person who refuses to accept the destiny and gets lost in the chaotic law system. It wants him to rethink his spiritual beliefs and values. With the help of the fable, the priest tried to explain K that he is a person chosen by God, the one who is to take the responsibility not for his own mistakes but the whole modern world. The fable ends with the words “this entrance was assigned only to you”, which explains that K needs to do something to cope with the situation and that now he is just wasting the time as the man from country did (Johnston par. 1).

Josef occurs to be sentenced because he is constantly searching for the evidence of his innocence instead of realizing that every person has sins and even the smallest ones make the individual responsible for all (Stewart par. 5). Just like the man who is waiting near the gates, K is waiting for the sentence, and they both fail to do what they were expected to. The man meet a gatekeeper of the lower level as well as Josef. The procedure they face shows the complex hierarchy of power that the human and divine courts have.

The women K meets play a great role in his life. Fräulein Bürstner owns the room where he was arrested. Being a law secretary she interests Josef as a tool to not only to deal with loneliness but also to get free, so he starts the relationship against his will. The court usher’s wife promises to help him even though she has no idea how to do it. Leni is expected to influence K’s lawyer, but she also fails to assist him. Instead of help, Josef gains more shame and guilt. He gets engaged in the corrupted system, and these relations just worsen his mental state as well. Male characters seem to be the ones who hold the power. They are shady and inaccessible. It appears that men are pushing Josef towards his sentence. They want him to accept the situation and realize his role in it and the world in total. Male characters appeal to his rationality and make him think over the events. Women affect his mind, confuse K and encourage the indecent behavior. They seem to assist him in finding the truth but just withdraw it.

The end of the story comes unexpectedly, as the sentence occurs to be put into operation without the actual trial. Two unknown men dressed for the opera instead of being agents come to carry it out. They seem to be very polite but pitiless. He gains no opportunity to define his guilt, but it might be his refusal to yield and accept the will of the Court. People who do not agree to act according to the rules established by the representatives of the highest levels cannot live in the society ruled by them. The inhumanity of such approach is supported by the K’s last words “like a dog” (Kafka 166). Still, the main mystery remains uncovered, and we can only guess why such things have happened.

Works Cited

Gioia, Ted. 2011. Web.

Johnston, Ian. 2015. Web.

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. New York: Booklassic, 2015. Print.

Meyer, Michael. Literature and Law. New York: Rodopi, 2004. Print.

2015. Web.

Stewart, David. 2000. Web.

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