The Trial
Franz Kafka
Contributed by Sung Miele
Chapter 2

K. is informed on the phone that an inquiry is to take place. It will be on a Sunday and not be held frequently. The Assistant Manager overhears him talking over the phone. K. tends to act superior and declines an invitation to a party. The Assistant Manager’s attitude is very polite and follows protocol in this chapter. His behavior changes in the course of the mind. Strangely K. forgets to inquire the location where the trial is to take place. The three clerks observe his rushing away on a Sunday to Juliusstrasse. It is a busy locality with poor tenements.

K. reaches some courtyards with a confusing number of three staircases. Willem, his warden has told him that guilt and law attract each other. He believes that he has chosen the right staircase where poor children play on the streets.

All the rooms open. He pretends he is looking for a joiner, Lanz. Finally a woman directs him to a low roofed room packed with people. He finds a man with outstretched hands as if he is paying money while another stares at him. All the men are dressed in loose, black long coats, which puzzle K. A small lad leads him through a clear path towards a platform. The fat little man sitting there complains that K. is late. The gallery where people are located is filled with improper furniture, dusty and reeking.

A part of the audience on the left side is silent while others applaud when he insists that he has kept the appointments. The examining magistrate has a small notebook like an exercise book. He asks K. whether he is a house painter. K. asserts that he is a chief clerk of a large bank. K. calls the so-called trial "contemptible" and throws the Magistrates’ notebook, to humiliate him. The elderly, white bearded men are silent. He cites his position as being against the Court’s policy, which can be extended to any citizen. But the response is few. K. lectures continuously complaining about the inspector who arrested him. The washerwoman who barges in interrupts the proceedings. The Magistrate catches somebody’s eyes in the audience. The audience gets split into two over the argument. The sole speaker is K. He humiliates the system by accusing the corrupt warders, inspector and examining Magistrate. Even the clothes of the accused are confiscated from them. Suddenly somebody grabs the washerwoman’s arm. The man shouts and K. is shocked that it could happen in a courtroom, but nobody tries to stop the incident.

K. notices that these men are wearing badges which belong to the right or left parties. Everyone is an official. He is so angry that he threatens to strike an old man. The magistrate observes that he is throwing away the chance of acquittal by rushing out, by running away from the interrogation. The audience buzzes round with comments and analysis as he rushes out.


K. is a right-minded citizen firmly believing in himself and his actions. The court attacks his unshakable faith in his right mindedness. The maze of courtrooms is a metaphor. The court is replete with its symbols and strange scenes basing itself on the assumption that man is an erring being. The fact that an ordinary man like K. is put to trial shows that the ego is hit and hurt depriving it of its power. The court has so much power over an ordinary individual that it stirs unrest within K. He does not know where he has failed. His "bad conscience" frequently drives him to seek justice. There is no specific failure that is obvious.

From his bourgeois point of view K. is innocent. K. is cast into the mould of a bachelor who is egocentric and also a right-minded citizen. But his innocence and his self-righteousness is attacked by the court. The consciousness of the "Court" is the sudden fear, which threatens his fragmentary experience. The officers of the court are corrupt and cannot be subjected to the rules, which govern life, which the successful man thinks he has mastered. Here it is not just public justice. But it stimulates the spiritual urges in K. himself. The persecution by the court affects K.’s conditions. His career, his businesses like pursuits channelize the direction that his professional life takes. The court is meant to establish order in society. But it does not represent God’s claim on man. It is only from K.’s behavior, his anxiety and fears, that we realize it. In spite of
K.’s protests there is a certain wakeful listening which lends meaning to K.’s actions. K. realizes that the audience partly comprises of court officials that it could be rigged. But the men are also old and experienced. K. rashly insults them around and walks out.

The description of the court is the sole threat affecting the individuals’ consciousness of reality. K. is dazed by its dubious appearance, strangeness of meaning and its actual aims. The staircases and passages that leads K. to court are stupefying, the perplexing crossroads metaphorically affect human life. The courtrooms have a musty smell, housed in dingy attics. There is no solution found for the cases tried there. The court is further a threat to K.’s the human being’s ego pushed into empty space and dominated by something stronger.

The court has strange scenes and symbols. Man has somewhere lost his way in his unshakable destiny and has no link with the absolute or the divine and its standards. The picture of the human soul is distorted in this world as seen through
K.’s consciousness. This points one to the idea of a divine guidance and divine justice, a spiritual force which could be irrational like the sense of guilt or a power like one’s conscience.

The strangeness of the junior clerk is part to the outer world. They have no semblance of justice and acquire a democratic character in K.’s soul.

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