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

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THE TRIAL: LITERARY CRITICISM / BOOK NOTES

CHAPTER 4

Summary


K. repeatedly tries to contact Fräulein Bürstner. But she has decided to move out and a very pale French teacher - Fräulein Montag moves in. Fräulein Bürstner neither replies nor returns. In effect she has rejected the letters that he wrote. Finally when K. speaks to Fräulein Bürstner she realizes that he is forgiving in his nature. Frankein Gruback is glad that Frankein Burstner's room. Franlein Montag's room is now given to her nephew the captain. She does not realize that K. resents Fräulein Bürstners’ moving out.

K. does not have any breakfast. He has an aversion for it and feels as if Fräulein Montag is mixed up with his food. Her pale, emaciated appearance repels him.

The physical description of the rooms is graphic with almost a cinematic eye for detail. Fräulein Bürstner conveys through Fräulein Montag, her refusal to meet K. Captain Lanz respectfully kisses Fräulein Montag's hand as opposed to K.'s aversion to her. K. feels that this action is indicative of a conspiracy among them directed against him. He also feels that Fräulein Montag has an exaggerated idea of his relationship with Fräulein Bürstner. He tries to prove her wrong and knocks at Fräulein Bürstner’s room. But Fräulein Bürstner has moved out. K. enters the room and sees that the furniture has been rearranged . He is in great shock when he finds Fräulein Montag and the captain lying about the escapade.

Notes

Both Fräulein Bürstner and Frau Gruback are forgiving and compassionate though they avoid meeting K. K. is arrogant enough to Frau Gruback when he changes his coat and enters the dinning room without knocking while meeting Fräulein Montag. He is equally arrogant when he thinks that being just a typist, Fräulein Bürstner should be grateful to him for her relationship with him. The rearrangement of the furniture and the change in the room are described in detail. This is in keeping with the cleansing imagery in the novel. The unexpected shake up in the boarding house is again a change in his orderly mechanical life. He can no longer be confident and take his relationships for granted.


The uncanny nature and senselessness of the arrest makes K. seek Fräulein Bürstner. He wants closeness and contact and surrender to his erotic feelings. But Fräulein Burstner always maintains her distance. But he never admits to himself that she is anything more than a distraction. He sees himself as dominating in their relationship. This is why he loses her as a friend. She is the only one close to him on whom he can depend. But he has distanced and alienated her. But the incident has only confirmed his egocentricity. Within his narrow circle of friends it is strange that even the Fräulein discards him and fails to comfort him K.'s rigid attitude prevents him from coming out of his egoistic shell.

K. cannot adjust to Fräulein Montag's mannerisms, her pedantic schoolteacher's manners is a replica of his officious, chief clerks bachelor life. He cannot get close to her and resents her being the neighbor.

Fräulein Bürstner promise of meeting him on "Sunday" was so cheery that he looks forward to that. Montag's name or sight disappoints him.


CHAPTER 5

Summary

This is the scene where the officials who arrested K. are whipped in the Bank Corridor in the lumber-room. K. is shaken by the scene. He sees it twice and then the victims plead with him to intercede. K.'s screaming makes the clerks in the bank anxious. So he tells the clerks to clean up the dirt and the mess.

The warders, Willem and Franz are being whipped after they are stripped. They say that they are punished because K. complains to the Chief Magistrate during the trial. K. also responds saying that he would be glad to see one of the high judges being flogged. He also knows that Franz is lying when he says that his fiancée is waiting outside. K. tries to bribe the whipper. But then K. feels that the whipper would not accept the bribe, as it would interfere with his duties while dealing with the accused. The officials could not harm him anymore.

The next day K. opens the door thinking that the officials would have collapsed. But they are standing in the same situation. It is now that K. lets out a scream.

Notes

This is a sinister, situation, with obnoxious feelings lurking in the background of the incident. If they were dead, K. could do nothing to get rid of the corpses. There are two levels of consciousness here. The world of the court and K.’s everyday world. The relationship between these two worlds is disconnected.

The court's presence is felt suddenly in the orderly routine of everyday life. K.'s orderly world also seems to be based on a world of horror. The opening of the lumber-room door shakes his confidence, which is almost fictitious. The whipper's scene is an image springing from the abyss, shaking man's confidence in life. But an evil seems to be elusive, never defined or clear.

The lumber-room is the setting far away from the business world. That is how life is seen from a different angle. K. is also a link in the evil committed as the whipping is the result of his complaint. Though he tries to avert the punishment he is united with the warders who undergo the punishment. The warders represent man as a creature who is subjected to a ruthless destiny. The court does not stand for justice, but the effects the sinister accidents give rise to are senseless. Symbolically, man seems to be persecuted by an unyielding destiny. Man's legalized existence is threatened. The warders’ suffering is the result of K.'s own complaints. This suffering shakes mankind's self assurance and order, as a result of man's failing. The shrieking is also symbolic of K.'s suffering. K.'s utterance that ‘It is only a dog howling in the yard’ is symbolic. The metaphor of the dog's pathetic existence is carried till the end of the tragedy.

K.'s alternative is to take on the warder's suffering, in a larger sense, the world's suffering. But K. declines to do so. Instead he blames the officials for their guilt. His flight shows that he does not take on responsibility but also that he asserts his rights regarding the life that he is living.


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