This essay The trial has a total of 10156 words and 41 pages.
by Franz Kafka
read by Geoffrey Howard
This disturbing and vastly influential novel has been interpreted on many levels of structure and symbol; but most commentators agree that the book explores the themes of guilt, anxiety, and moral impotency in the face of some ambiguous force.
Joseph K. is an employee in a bank, a man without particular qualities or abilities. He could be anyone, and in some ways he is everyone. His inconsequence makes doubly strange his “arrest” by the officer of the court in the large city where K. lives. He tries in vain to discover how he has aroused the suspicion of the court. His honesty is conventional; his sins, with Elsa the waitress, are conventional; and he has no striking or dangerous ambitions. He can only ask questions, and receives no answers that clarify the strange world of courts and court functionaries in which he is compelled to wander.
The plight of Joseph K., consumed by guilt and condemned for a “crime” he does not understand by a “court” with which he cannot communicate, is a profound and disturbing image of man in the modern world. There are no formal charges, no procedures, and little information to guide the defendant. One of the most unsettling aspects of the novel is the continual juxtaposition of alternative hypotheses, multiple explanations, different interpretations of cause and effect, and the uncertainty it breeds. The whole rational structure of the world is undermined.
Is it not better to fall into the hands of a murderer than into the dreams of a lustful woman? -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra
Chapter 1: The Arrest / Conversation with Frau Grubach / Then Fräulein Bürstner
Joseph K., our hero, wakes up the morning of his thirtieth birthday expecting his breakfast to be brought to him. What he gets instead are two warders, Franz and Willem, telling him he\'s under arrest. He protests some, demanding to see their boss, at first thinking it must be a joke perpetrated on him by some people at the Bank, where he works as a chief clerk. He meets the Inspector, who says it\'s for real but refuses to say why. The Inspector is seated in Fräulein Bürstner\'s room next door, and K. sees three men he knows from the bank there, Rabensteiner, Kaminer, and Kullich, whom he greets angrily before hurrying off to work.
After he gets home from work that evening, he talks with his landlady, Frau Grubach. He apologizes for the ruckus and she says it\'s all right, but that she doesn\'t really understand this business of his arrest. He starts to go to his room and asks if Fräulein Bürstner is in, so he can apologize for the appropriation of her room. No, she isn\'t, and he can see her room himself. Frau Grubach starts wondering about her nocturnal habits, as she\'s seen her with young men around town at night, only to be interrupted by K., defending her from unwarranted aspersions on her character. She leaves, and he goes to bed, where he can\'t sleep.
At about 11:30 Fräulein Bürstner, a typist, comes home and K. goes to talk to her. He tells her what happened that morning, but she doesn\'t seem to be really interested, asking bored questions about it, as if to get rid of him. A knock on the door down the hall interrupts them, and Joseph apologizes profusely for taking up her time and makes as if to leave, but not before grabbing her and kissing her savagely. Then he goes back to his own room.
Chapter 2: First Interrogation
Joseph gets a call at work telling him to show up for a brief inquiry into his case on Sunday. He goes to the building mentioned that Sunday, only to find it\'s just a big tenement house, with no distinguishing marks. After wandering through the building he at last is directed to the Court of Inquiry by a strange woman doing laundry. The Court is sitting in an overcrowded, stuffy room, with a platform and a big audience of important looking men. He gets berated for being late and is asked if he\'s a house painter. K. takes this opportunity to address the audience (which
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