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

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K. ponders about writing a self-defending account, dealing with his life, that is a self-analysis and judgement of the case and his motivation for his actions. The advocate Huld makes it a point to deliver an extensive monologue. He admonishes him at times and K. decides to stop paying his fees. He reminds himself of his experience with other cases, which were considered confidential. They have actually been just filed and never read by the court officials.

In all the previous cases and K.s case the accused were only observed and interrogated.

A veil of secrecy shrouded the charge sheets and the accused never got to know what he was accused of.

With all these defects they never think in terms of modifying the judicial system. The lower officials feel it is better to adapt rather than come into conflict with the system and fall into "destruction". The only change one could expect is for the worse, a more ruthless and rigid system. K. remembers that he was rude to the chief clerk. Also the lawyers are extremely moody. A client cannot change lawyers in between cases either. If the case becomes too difficult for the lawyer to handle due to some reason all the pleas will be returned to the client. The case could be considered closed and the accused cannot clear his name.

K. feels that the lawyer could be alerting and aiding the officials. He also suspects that suddenly one day he will be told that the initial examination is over.

Time in this novel is recorded with the change of seasons. It is now winter. Spring has passed. K. was arrested in spring. He is now unable to withdraw from the trial. He is not confident of his relationship with Fräulein Burstner either. Holding a respectable position in the Bank, K. constantly reminds himself that he should not believe that he is guilty. He tries to handle it like a business deal, setting things, right. Now, it is a matter of the family's prestige. He feels he cannot just sit condemned like the accused in the attic lobby. He feels Dr. Huld's office is slowing down his case and he wants to withdraw his case. If he monitors the case himself he would be the sole accused who would stand up for his rights.

He keeps wondering how he could draw up his own plea as he feels a compelling urge not to do so. It so happens that on that day the Assistant Manager accidentally walks into his cabin with a manufacturer who tries to negotiate with K. At this moment K.'s reflections reveal that the accusation and its cause are still unknown and it would be difficult for him to account for every moment of his activities. He is at the peak of his career, competing with even the Assistant Manager, wasting his time fighting a case without knowing the exact nature of his arrest. K. draws himself to his full height leveling his height with the Assistant Manager.

While K.'s personal life is being turned inside out he can hardly discharge his duties in the office. There is an intrigue in the Bank as well. The Assistant Manager uses his influence over the invalid, Senior Manager to obtain favors for himself.

Now comes K.'s lengthy meeting with the manufacturer. The Assistant Manager has concluded his deal with the manufacturer. He does not show his papers to K. as he had earlier promised. But he mentions the case with its contents held up at court and offers his help. He knows about a painter who visits all the judges and could help K. He also complements K.'s good sense that he would withdraw his case from Dr. Huld and that K. himself is an excellent lawyer who can argue his own case.

The painter is Titoreli. K. suggests that he could write to him. But the manufacturer warns K. against such a move. K. realizes that he has been too careless because he is tensed up. The letter could be used as evidence against him, of plotting against the court. He realizes he has not been alert at all. The manufacturer gives that painter's address and his letter of recommendation. K. postpones his official business at the Bank and all his three appointments.

The description of the Prague Township is extremely graphic. The painter's house is situated diametrically opposite to the court offices. It is a filthy area, rat infected, gutters oozing out in the snow, infants crying on the street. There is again the maze of staircases, which he climbs. It is filled with, young adolescent screaming girls.

Titorelli is painting the portrait of a judge, similar to the one K. had seen in Dr. Huld's house. The portraits of all the judges look similar. All judges are vain enough to get themselves painted as though they are seated on the high chair. K. observes that justice has to stand still absolutely otherwise the scales would tilt.

The painter tries to make him comfortable in his room. The scene appears to be more like a shrink's office. Though K. asserts that he is innocent, the painter thinks it is of little consequence. He also agrees that his case would be listened to by judges in portraits rather than by those in the actual room. The court does not act on proofs brought to its notice in the court proceedings. But the court could be influenced behind the scenes. The painter seems to be more powerful than the lawyers themselves are. K.'s furious that the painter seems to be questioning his innocence again. If the painter offers his assistance on the condition that he is innocent K. feels he is of little help. On the flip side does K. himself doubt his innocence? But K. feels that the painter is more reliable and appreciates his frankness.

The painter proceeds to give a diluted account of the trial and judgement. There are he says three kinds of acquittals. One, that is a certain definite acquittal, a showy one - "ostensible" acquittal and the third an indefinite postponement. He says K. could get acquitted without anybody's help if he is absolutely innocent. But K. is quite surprised and says that there is a contradiction. He says that the painter had said that the court did not decide on evidence being produced and also that the judges could be influenced by people who were close to them. K. considers this as improper court procedures.

The painter intervenes and says that there is a discrepancy between the legal code and its functioning.

K. says that the court makes charges on flimsy grounds and does not discharge the accused. The painter's response is a firm negation. He describes it in terms of his painting. The speechless pompous judges in all his portraits could pardon K., but in reality the court would never do so. K. is still confident and proud of his organizing skills at the bank. He decides to make use of the painter and others of his caliber and thus rid himself of the accusation. K is impressed that the painter also helps poor people.

The painter says that though he has listened to judges commenting all his lifetime he has never come across a single "definite" acquittal. He says they could have a single executioner instead of having so many judges on the payroll. Though the court professed to have granted acquittals it is very difficult to prove one. The decisions of the judges are not documented, so the acquitted are only legendary. The painter with his artistic eye feels that there could be some truth in it. He feels he could paint several pictures based on those legends.

Though K. needs more proof than legends, he does not contradict Tilleroli. He rules out a definite acquittal while listening to the painter. The painter then recounts about an ostensible acquittal and its postponement. As he is listening, K. sweats excessively in the attic room though it is winter. It is so suffocating that he wants to push the window open and gulp the fog outside.

The painter continues his tale of the ostensible acquittal, which needs absolute involvement on the part of the accused whereas postponement would mean steady mental tension and strain. The painter is so confident that he says he could draw up an affidavit of
K.'s innocence. The text was handed down to him by his father and would never be questioned.

He could than approach each of the judges. He even says he would guarantee his innocence to the judge who would accept it. He asserts that it would be more binding than a formal guarantee. The painter's eyes betray that the judge should not lay such a burden on him. Every judge might not trust him. Some would like to see him in person. If the judge called him then there was some hope. The painter says that he would advise him as to the course of action he should take. Even if some judges do not support him he could collect enough support from others judges for the affidavit. He could then approach the judge who conducts the trial. The accused would now have enough confidence, which is more important than the acquittal itself. He would then be free but then an ostensible acquittal also meant only provisional freedom.

In a definite acquittal the documents pertaining to the arrest would be destroyed. In an ostensible acquittal the case is never closed. The documents are retained, the "dossier" makes the rounds when a official demands and a record of the acquitted only is attached. He also says that he knows only the lower cadre of judges but they were empowered to grant only temporary acquittal. The highest court only had the power to grant a definite acquittal. What is very significant is that there is a long interval between the ostensible acquitted and the rears. Sometimes there is just a gap of a few hours when the accused is free and then he is rearrested. But he could apply for a temporary acquittal. K makes him stop before he reveals anything more frightening. The judges anticipate arrest. The ostensible acquittal leads to further arrests.

This being unsuitable for K. the painter then goes on to the subject of postponement. Postponement implies that there is no further progress in the trial. The case stagnates. It demands more vigilance, either the judge in charge has to be met with personally or the accused could meet other judges. But they would ultimately influence the concerned judge. He then goes to meet the concerned judge personally. There was also the danger of sudden arrest and mental strain. Postponement again had certain disadvantages. The accused would never be free. The case could run into litigation. The accused has to continue attending court. The audience could be a very small circle. He even says that the length of the trial does not make the case unpleasant. The interrogations were just an official routine. An appointment could be arranged with the judges leisurely. The accused needed to be constantly identified as such before the judge and keep the issue burning. K does not believe he will ever get an acquittal.

The painter wants to know Ks decision or else he is ready to proceed to the Bank. This would embarrass K. Kafka also calls the painter "the peddling painter". He sells 3 of his paintings of "heath scapes". The painter's bed opens directly into the passage leading to the law court offices.

Everything, including the studio belongs to the law court K. steps on the bed and is immediately in the law court office. Here he meets the second usher. He is completely exhausted and stumbles outside into the fresh air. The usher carries the paintings to his offices. He locks them up and gets rid of the usher before the Asst. Manager pops in with his prying eyes. K reaches his office travelling in a coach with the usher clamoring into the coachman's bus while K's uncle hails a taxi as they return from the lawyer's.

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