The Trial
Franz Kafka
Contributed by Sung Miele
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Chapter 10

This chapter is chronologically very explicit. Two black clothed men pick-up K. who is also dressed in black. Like in chapter 1 at 9 a.m. the warders arrest K. at the same time. This incident has occurred exactly after one year of the first one, in fact the evening of the protagonist’s birthday.

The court acts according to the will of K. K.’s death is the issue. He has to die. His death is inevitable. There are two executioners who are appointed to kill K. They treat K. with amazing courtesy that is much more than the waders. This is so because their grip on K. is in such a "...unity which would have brought all three down together had one of them been knocked over." This welcomes the interpretation of these two men along with the warders, as being parts of K.’s "self" or his "ego." The warders because in the first chapter these two warders were described by one of them as being closer to K. than any other people in the world.

The trio then move towards the railway tracks - implying on the possibility of suicide - and thus evoking traces of ‘suicide’ in Kafka’s "The Judgement", where the death of the protagonist liberates him. In ‘The Trial’ K. contrarily does not choose to die. From the very beginning K.’s will to life is feeble, and his inability to commit suicide is only a distorted version of it. K. misses another opportunity to kill himself when the arrangements for his death are being made at the quarry. " K. now knew exactly that it would have been his duty to grab the knife passing back and forth over his head and plunge it into his own breast." K. blames fate for not having enough will power to commit the deed.

It is only when K. considers for the last time the option of killing himself that Fräulein Bürstner appears. She comes as if in a dream and triggers in K. a thought process. K. realizes that he had faltered in his understanding of the significance of her advice when she had rebuked him to depend upon himself. He realizes that it was meaningless to continue fighting death. The novel ends with the death of the protagonist Joseph K. The last lines are " ‘Like a dog!’ It was as if the shame of it must outlive him,..."


In the final chapter K.’s execution in a stone quarry is the disillusionment that lets in. His dying like a dog is the death of the canine consciousness, a dog whose physical senses are very alert. He does not see the spiritual light, which the priest offers and so he gives in. Also, he has lived a bachelor’s existence, the figure that is like Fräulein Bürstner is unreachable. He had very little of "give and take" in his life, caring and sharing. The void in his life metaphorically symbolizes the blankness in modern living.

Without knowing what his guilt is, K. responds as a guilty man. He refuses to submit to the divine will. His end is brought about by the break down of his resistance. The conclusion is open-ended. Does K. die because death is preferable to survival with a lack of faith? Does he die because he lacks the strength to resist? Or is his ending an allegory? It invites wide reader appeal defying closure. K. is executed at a place, a quarry symbolizing the sacrificial altar.

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 itself. 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.

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.

The protagonist tries to free himself from his guilt, though he does not know what the guilt is. There is no joy in the act of living. The courts call was that of a divine call. His trial shows that he was imprisoned, not able to bring out his own "self" or his spiritual identity. The freedom that he longs for is the deliverance of his self. He is fed up of his routine existence. 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. Like so many of Kafka’s portrayals K. ends up, negating life without any hope.

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