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Free Study Guide: The Trial by Franz Kafka - Synopsis / Analysis

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The setting is the early twentieth century urban atmosphere in offices, courtrooms and furnished drawing room premises. The major part of the action takes place in the maze of courtrooms with its corridors and passages. The cathedral also functions as an important part of the plot. Nature is occasionally the backdrop with sunshine and rain, daylight and darkness.


Major Characters

Joseph K.
The chief clerk in the bank is the protagonist. He seeks justice constantly from the corrupt and lethargic courts. In the process he is faced with his own faults and weakness.

Minor Characters

Franz and William
They are the warders who place K. under arrest at his residence.

Rabensteiner, Kaminer, Kullich
They are subordinate employees working under K. in the bank.

Frau Grubach
The landlady.

Fräulein Bürstner
The lady staying at Frau Grubach's place, K.'s neighbor and friend. After his arrest, K. is greatly dependent on her opinion.

Lanz, The Captain
The captain is Frau Grubach's nephew who becomes Fräulein Bürstnerís friend replacing K.

Herr Hastier
K.'s lawyer. He does not come into the picture at all.

A young woman
She is the usher's wife. She lives in the courtrooms. A student and the examining magistrate have an affair with her, bribing her with gifts.

The Usher
The usher is the man announcing the people entering the courtrooms. He knows every nook and corner or the maze of corridors, rooms and passages in the courtrooms. He is a patient and wise man.

The Examining Magistrate
Like other court officials though he makes a pretense of working in the presence of the usher's wife, most of the law books and files/cases lie unopened gathering dust. He exploits the usher's wife. He is poor and not paid as well as K.

The Clerk of Inquired
Represents the information bureau. He is a very patient man who believes that the court officials are not harsh or negligent.

The girl in the Courtroom
She works in the courts and accompanies K. and the usher to the clerk of inquiries. She supports K. when he almost hints.

The Inspector
He is the boss who places K. under arrest. Franz and Willem work under him. He is polite to K. But K. misinterprets and makes a complaint against him at court.

Fräulein Montag
Fräulein Bürstnerís friend. She is thin and cunning and replaces Fräulein Bürstner as K.'s neighbor. He does not like her.

The Whipper
He is stubborn in carrying out orders. He whips the warders Franz and Willem with a bird rod-a barbaric custom which is believed to be effective and put into practice even today in some Islamic countries.

Albert Karl
K.'s uncle who is attached deeply to family ties. It's he who takes K. to the chief Magistrate Huld who in turn could argue his case. He is concerned and obviously K. is aware of his deep affection and authority.

She is Uncle Karl's daughter who is very responsible. She tries to shield K. and inform her father too of his situation.

Herr Huld, the lawyers' nurse, who is too friendly with every client who visits him.

The Chief Clerk of the Court
Visits Herr Huld who is partly a patient and keeps him informed of all the cases which come up in the court.

The Assistant Manager
He is aware of K.'s precarious position and his frequent absence from office to visit the courts and attend to his case. He practically grabs his deals, waiting to step into his shoes.

The Manufacturer
A businessman, he contacts K. in his office on an official deal. He also has cases piled up in court against him. He introduces the painter through to K.

Has several contacts with judges, as he paints their portraits. He has an extensive knowledge of court proceedings. He sells his paintings to K. who in turn helps him.

Block-the Tradesmen
Another client of Huld's who is friendly to Leni, and looks very meek and submissive. He gives K. some professional advice, as he has five lawyers to fight his case. Dr. Huld treats him like a dog.

Italian Colleague
He has some business contacts with the bank. K. has to deal with him. He acts as the intermediary leading him to the cathedral.

The Chaplain
He preaches K. from the pulpit in one of the chapels in the Cathedral. He tries to make him realize his guilt before he slides down any further. He tries further to teach him his lessons through a parable.

The two men
These are the two men who finally kill K.

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