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

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THE TRIAL: FREE LITERARY CRITICISM / LITERARY ELEMENTS

SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / IMAGERY / METAPHORS / SYMBOLS

The Trial is an expansive view of the constant strife of the chief clerk and land surveyor, Joseph K. stretching over the orbit of an entire human life. There are constant parables, metaphors and the truck of 'illusion' interrupting the maze of descriptive passages. The meaning of the plot gets embedded in this maze. The parable approach validates and clarifies Kafka's point of view. The expense of
K.'s life at two levels - one at the conscious and the other at the spiritual are revealed despite the narrow constructions of the plot and this gives a certain universality. Both are "Everyman". Their struggles are a longing for a general word order. This unique method is Kafka's attempt to transform the world into "the pure, the true, the unchangeable". Artistic and religions themes are used to create a universal truth. He tries to fight destiny and human weaknesses. The work presents a conflict between human efforts and fate, which contradicts all the rules made by man. In ‘The Trial’ the characters do not interact with each other clearly as it happens in the real world. The events are hazy. There is unrest in the structure of thought processes and something seems to go wrong in the whole world endlessly. There is a never-ending depressive gloom presented in the role of the advocate and the painter until the priest offers some relief in the last chapters.

K.'s relationship with women is particularly significant. His egocentricity has made him move away from his mother whom he has not visited for years. Fräulein Bürstner does not attract his attention until after the arrest. He has failed to notice what is so close protecting, loving and feminine the other half of human nature. Kafka has presented the defect and inadequacy of man like K., in stark, clear-cut terms. But though Joseph K. is considered guilty. Nowhere is the guilt clearly sketched or formulated. Franz, the warder defines his guilt indirectly, which he says that though K. says he does not know the Law, he insists that he is innocent.

There is also another view that there is a socialistic trend to the story. Anyone who gets caught in this system of judicial administration is considered "guilty" while the court never listens to their pleas of innocence. Defending himself seems to be beyond human power, for Joseph K. It is about to destroy his career and life itself. The whole trial depends on man's motivation, caught in a chaotic world, but one who wishes to pause for a moment. Joseph K. tries to push away the knowledge of good and evil, thinking that the trial is a passing phase. But the earthly court also is incapable of knowing good and evil and pass judgement. The court is a continuous place of changing opinions that people have of one another, including high judges. The story delineates the lives of these judges. They represent the power of authority they hold on life or the power of life itself. But they lead a sensuous life. They have no sense of human relations.

Kafka delineates the bureaucracy in the role of the doorkeeper and the old accused man who gets caught in the system. Though the officials want to break away from the system they are unable to do so. The Chaplain offers this parable and says that the private man is in comparison a free man. There is a message in the story like all parables. If man inquires into the determination of his own existence instead of staring at the superhuman world of courts he could be liberated on earth itself. If the private person, the accused had only asked for whom the entrance was intended before dying he would have received "the redeeming message". This is the intellectual and spiritual framework of "The Trial".

The book also throws light on K.'s subconscious ideas and instructs and desires. His official career, his affairs with woman and his problem of guilt. The lawyer in the story represents the entire spirit of the human spirit. Here consciousness is rendered powerless. Faith has to substitute knowledge and one has to submit knowledge and one has to submit to fate, but not rebel or become angry. This is what K. refuses to do. He does not follow his instincts. The lawyer's illness is symbolic of others' sufferings. Dog-like submission (like Blocks’) is the only answer to religious hope. Kafka presents a frightening world where conscious life is going out of control.

Leni and Huld are inseparable. They cannot be questioned on political social or ideological grounds. They promise to be responsible for K.'s future. Huld does not confirm to any religion. He writes in a language that client's do not understand. K. is caught between freedom and concrete existence where there is no resolution.

The painter Titorelli represents all that is colorful and that exists on earth. But Titorelli remains unemotional and uninvolved, surrounded by women, while K. gets caught up, trying to free himself. By the time K. is meeting with the painter ends he is more detached. There is a transformation-taking place. K. changes clothes symbolically he is reborn.. The novel ends on K.'s realization that he has to meekly submit to the execution. He develops a growing strength in the act of dying


Dostoevsky it delineates the soul in the form of philosophic fiction. It has allegories, satire, parables and commentary. There are references to nature as the background. Robing and disrobing, when K. is arrested and after he meets Titorelli and again when the executors fetch him are very significant. His material and spiritual existence are implied in the change of clothes. The dog is a recurring metaphor where it symbolizes submission to faith at the spiritual level. The exquisite description of the chapel is another mark of Kafka's style. Change of rooms and of furniture mark important phases in K.'s life. He is arrested in Fräulein Bürstner's room. The rooms return to their original state after the whipper and the wardens disappear. This is also allegory emphasizing K.'s guilt.

K. also symbolizes the reader's response. The voyeuristic reader is like the neighbors in the framed windows like an impressionist painting looking at K.'s room. Illusion is also used as an effective technique. K. prejudges the court and its officials. The whipping scene could also be an illusion. To return to the framed window, the framing metaphor leads to the "framing" of K. as the accused, who is in fact the author. K. walked the busy streets in his office through with the manufacturer, seeing life pass by. He sits by the chair near the window when he is arrested.

Curiously naming is a device used. Franz, the warder and K. both stand for Kafka's name. Franz awaiting his finance could be like Kafka's breakup with his fiancée. Dizziness and breathlessness are used to show his confusion in the courtroom and in the painter's place spatial metaphor is used in the maze of courtrooms showing that the trial is complicated. The court even rents out rooms making money.

Deceiving as a metaphor is seen when the doorkeeper in the parable is a slave and the private man a free person.

Huld symbolizes familial authority and divine with which K.'s uncle believes in. But K.'s refusal to give in symbolizes the modern man. Superstition used effectively also when the audience guesses who is guilty by looking at the accused. The court looms large finally as a ubiquitous metaphor dominating the interests of K. and the reader as a theatre where action or non-action is played out.

K.'s observation reveals very clearly that the injustice meted out at every stage of the trial. K. has deep sympathy for the officials and even empathizes with the officials caught in the judicial rut and muddle K. is the narrator commenting on the judicial system as well as the character undergoing the painful experience. The lawyers are humane, jovial and amiable. But they could easily get upset with arrogant behavior. As the novel moves closer to the climax K. loses more and more confidence. Height is a metaphor when K. raises himself to match the manufacturer and the Assistant Manager in their heights. It gives him a sense of control. The Assistant Manager's appearance is like a scepter, again a metaphor hiding his feelings. K. is likewise masking his appearance. He is civil and follows the formalities of courtesy without any genuine feeling. The bottom line is that K.'s career is affected. He is civil and follows the formalities of courtesy without any genuine felling.

The story reveals the painter's deep legal expertise and acumen about the court. The fear of re-arrest, hanging over the accused head is described in spatial terms. It is a spatial swing between being condemned and being free oscillating between death and freedom living a full life as it he is at the point of orbit close to earth and swinging away from it, losing gravity.

K.'s attitude towards life is exemplified in the position he holds in the bank. His career, his business pursuits, his aims follow the set pattern of professional modern living and also of his whole being. This formality has now been disrupted by the trial. His relations with he Manager and the Assistant Manager are most revealing. The Assistant Manager is also the acting-Manager when K. pursuer his case. He is K.'s competitor in the Bank. There is a hidden rivalry between the two. K. struggles to survive in his official post with his self-preservation instincts. The trial brings to the fore his straggle and weakens him in this rat race. The schism in existence, bringing about his down fall is completely and cruelly exposed. His fall is likened to the fall of man at the metaphorical level. He does not stop himself from bribing the painter or attempting short at routes to escape the condemnation. ‘The Trial’ here is also the consciousness of the empty shell and futility of everybody, selfish individual existence, scraping for any means to survive socially and economically.

While K. is rooted in ordinary existence he is fighting the courts against a timeless, immeasurable background. He does not want to acknowledge the new significance. On his thirteenth birthday, the threshold of middle age, his fundamental existence has validity. He is now faced with a deep disappointment, a sudden fear throwing his fragmented existence out of control. The "something" that threatens is the court. The individual's consciousness of reality is relaxed has lost its grip on appearance with the threatening description of the court. The world seems to be broken into fragments, the courts, individual lives; women lead their own lives. There is no convergence of interests and attitudes. Bleak and dreary, out of these fragments, the new reality, which emerges, is unfamiliar and threatening intruding on the ego in new forms. K.'s ego seems to be driven against the wall, surrounded by something stronger than it is.

The novel does not dwell in consciousness of divinity, but from an unrest which is ever present written the worlds limits. Death seems to be incomprehensible and life seems to be relentlessly set opposed to it, for K. is still in the process of fighting any accusation or condemnation against the court, which is the monolith. The court does not represent wholly God's claim on man. This is the meaning within it at the symbolic level. It is through K.'s behavior, his painful anxiety and his conflict, his fears and his frivolous existence that we come to know about it. In the person of the advocate it is seem whether it is right to justify the self on an intellectual place while the levels of eventuality or Destiny guide the course of the trial.

It is difficult to conduct like through the spirit as well. Through the advocate the human spirit seems to be ambiguous though it is a genuine guidance for living. The high office that he holds dictates a moralistic code of conducting business.


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