In the novel called The Trial, Franz Kafka presents a metaphorical outlook on law and legality and reflects on the influence of modernity and bureaucracy on criminal justice system. The novel offers a distorted version of the court system, where the readers focus on the trial process, although the opening part of the story already focuses on the ambiguity of the situation (Kafka, 2005).
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More importantly, the story interpretation allows the readers to understand the current situation in the U. S. civil litigation, as well as criminal justice process. While drawing the parallel between successful metaphorical comparisons, Kafka manages to identify the ubiquity of the court system due to the increased suspicion and court’s inaccurate representation of facts.
Interpreting the trial process held on Josef K. closely resembles the U.S. criminal justice process. In the novel, the readers could anticipate that the protagonist will be arrested and tried, but there is no accurate information on what he is accused of. Thus, while grasping the essence of the opening scenes and comparing them with the U.S. criminal justice system, specific attention requires the restrictions imposed on humble members of society who have been charged.
In the novel, K lives in a totalitarian country, which contradicts the democratic principles accepted in the United States. Within the context of the story, this position is justified because the courts and their subsidiaries are located in attics, in the cathedral, and in even in the apartment.
The ubiquity of the court facilities represents the relation between the court officials working within the court system and the actual legal procedures practiced outside it. Hence, there is a slight commonality between the inside and outside representation of the justice system.
In the novel, the protagonist remains alone when he is outside his apartment, but he is under the pressure as soon as he is inside the judicial system. The outsiders persecuting K may hire lawyers whereas the accused are limited in his rights because of the absence of alternatives.
Dominance of legal system over human faith is explicitly reproduced in The Trial. While representing the actual process of returning a verdict, there is no substantial ground for the accused. The only reason for accusing Josef K is premised on the agreement of the majority who consider it insignificant to inform the defendant about the crime he committed, if any. In such a manner, Kafka renders his personal outlook on unjust and corrupt judicial system by demonstrating an extremely precise picture of things to come.
Under the auspices of the U.S. justice system, American citizens usually take unalienable rights for granted. However, the protagonist of the novel experiences none of those rights to which civilians are accustomed to. Therefore, the fact that one morning Josef K is arrested for an unknown reason does not surprise, although the system in which Josef is involved is well organized. Further persecutions and accusations shock the main hero as soon as he realizes the scale of the Court influence.
Every court described in the novel is situated in poor regions, and the streets surrounding the premises are “filled with sludge”, in which lawyers “are strictly forbidden” to protect their defendants and introduce “any structural repairs or alterations” (Kafka, 2005, p. 116). The extreme pressure on K is presented throughout the novel. Even the room in which the trial is held is almost run out of air so that it is hard for the protagonist to breath.
The author also resorts to describing grim and foggy weather which influences oppressively Josef K. In the stroy, the court buildings are situated in dark, stuffy places. In reality, court buildings are usually white, grand constructions in which people uphold justice and rely on any means to protect human rights and freedom. Instead, Kafka portrays these facilities as the opposite ones with that accepted in the United States. In the United States, the reputation of the Court rather than human innocence is at stake as multiple cases prove that.
Similarly, Kafka highlights this dilemma as well; in the novel, Joseph realizes that “the most important thing was counsel’s personal connection with officials of the Court” (Kafka, 2005, p. 117). Proper evidence, therefore, amounts to nothing, even though the price of verdict equals human life.
In conclusion, the novel outlines a transparent and radical outlook on the corrupted criminal justice system, as it is presented by Kafka. Although there are a great number of differences between the real justice system and that depicted in the story, the similarities come to the fore as well.
This is of particular concern to the dominance and attitude of the court for an individual as a human whose rights should be protected. In such a manner, the author focuses on omnipotence of the court and helplessness of individuals in front of the bureaucratic system. The Trial, therefore, is a brilliant representation of the current criminal justice system, within which court officials often ignore the significance of objective evaluation.
Kafka, F. (2005). The Trial. US: Vintage Books.