The Trial
Franz Kafka
Contributed by Sung Miele
Chapter 6

Here, we are presented with K.’s close elderly relative, Uncle Karl. Uncle Karl suddenly pays K. a visit at his office. K. dreads meeting him after the arrest. The description of uncle Karl is very Dickensonian. His dress and his mannerisms are very well pictured. Uncle Karl is fastidious about finishing all his work on schedule as well as enjoying the entertainment that the town provides. He is a country landlord. Once K. has become independent economically, he thinks of uncle as a "ghost from the past" as he was once his ward. K.’s cousin, Erna had written to uncle informing him of his arrest. She has also pretended that K. sent a box of chocolates for her birthday.

Uncle Karl asks K. to hurry up and meet his lawyer to fight the case. K. is afraid that his clerk would overhear when he drops in to pick some papers. Uncle is shocked to know that he is involved in a criminal case. Uncle is also shocked at his indifference and tries to set the process of fighting into motion. Uncle has lived in the country for 20 years. They hail a taxi and visit Chief Magistrate Huld. The lawyer is uncle’s schoolmate.

The lawyer appears to be sick, almost at the collapsing stage. His nurse is Leni. K.’s uncle seems to take a dislike for the nurse. He chases her away while the sick lawyer prances around the room. But he is extremely alert in spite of his sickness. Uncle Karl wants privacy and the nurse is dismissed. K. feels that the magistrates’ judgement could be influenced if he discusses the case with other lawyers. One of his lawyer friends is seated in darkness unseen by others who happens to be the chief clerk of the court.

The scene is almost like the one in court with the chief clerk seated at table. He seems to be the same person who was part of the audience in the front row in K.’s trial. The nurse attracts his attention by breaking some crockery and to draw him out. He meets Leni in a room with a large portrait of a judge. In his posture he seems to be pronouncing a judgement. The portrait has intricate details. He has a fierce expression and steps bad to the chair of justice. The carpet is yellow colored. Though the examining magistrate according to Leni is a dwarf, he is stretched to great heights in the picture. K. shows Leni the snapshot of his girl friend, Elsa the cabaret dancer. Leni is attracted towards K. She thinks Elsa is resilient, a fighter and a kind and sacrificing woman. K. thinks of her being the exact opposite. K. still feels that he is dependent on a long line of women-Fräulein Burstner, the usher’s wife and now the nurse. The nurse with her experience tells him that he has to confess his guilt, and if he is stubborn the court will not pardon him.

Leni considers her webbed fingers, as a defect while K. feels it is a paw. It is doubtful whether he regards her as an intelligent companion. She hands her keys to him as he reaches the pavement. His uncle is waiting in the pouring rain and is furious that K. walked away in the midst of a serious discussion.


As the story progresses we find that there is no connection between K.’s everyday routine life, his awareness of freedom and the consciousness of his arrest. It is a strange kind of arrest. In this kind of a situation K.’s uncle’s presence assumes importance along with, his visit to the Advocate. The trial has moved out of K.’s personal perspective. He can no longer keep it a secret. The others around him are as restless as K. is.

K.’s uncle wants a decisive and positive result. He is a man of business and is very clear headed in his thinking. He sees the trial as a threat to the success of the family business. He is also a ruthless businessman and does not want anything coming into conflict with his success. It would affect not just their survival, but reveal one member of the family in a disreputable light, thus affecting their dignity and prestige.

But the prospect of a decisive settlement is as elusive as his confidence. His being seduced by Leni is proof enough of his lack of confidence. The serious meeting with the lawyer ends in absurdity. K. literally mocks at the old men with Leni. The old men are ruthless conversing in his presence. There is also a gap between the real ego, of K. and the struggle that his self-confidence goes through in order to exist. His ego does not necessarily stabilize his self-confidence.

The Advocate is a professional connected to the court, which functions in attics. The actual effort and procedure leading to the trial are taken up now. In this new stage the ego itself undergoes a spiritual convulsion. The advocate is just a pretext as a conscious manifestation of the ego, trying to gratify his fancies. K. also comes to know a lot of stories about the court. K. senses a spiritual triumph over the calamity.

The judges getting their portraits painted, is a concrete expression of the ego seeking power. But there is no autonomous structure of being. The ego is controlled by the individual, K. as well as by the Advocate. The figure of the Advocate is more complex than that of the uncle. He has taken the slow course of the trial for granted. K.’s surprise at this context is the secret element in the spiritual conclusion that takes place. But the advocate talks only about his personal relationships with officials. The Advocate never asks a question but only informs him about the court. This is symbolic of the intellectual aspect of man’s existence. The officials stand for the divine standard. The Advocate boasts about his contacts and shows the limited contact that existence in the world has with the divine.

The advocate does not have many roles in the trial. Everything depends on the accused. The accused can gain an upper hand being distanced from the worldly situation by taking a strong decision and gain spiritually. Destiny’s powers cannot be altered (like the courts’). Human guidance comes in the form of the Advocates. The court control the little advocates, as much as the human spirit is controlled by a universal power expressed in life’s instincts.

The Advocates’ relationship to the trial is also arbitrary. He is effective only if he contacts the officials. There is no intellectual effort made on his part to solve the case. Since each individual case is unique their public validity is not of much importance. The cases, which end well, are the ones, which start well in the beginning. The Advocate symbolizes the skepticism of an intellectual who cannot justify his "self" and uproot the course of a trial, which has already been directed by an invisible destiny. Nor can he whip up enough energy and enthusiasm to change its course. The destined course of the trial is symbolic of a hidden spiritualism, powers of instinct and something that is not palpable beyond being responsible for life on earth. The Advocate also stands for divine grace. Clients look up to him with a lot of hopes.

The other important character, Leni seems to be too easy going. It is here that we find Kafka’s skill. Though K. deludes himself into thinking that he can have a sexual relationship with her Leni pities him and gets close to him because he is the accused. She loves all accused men. Her webbed fingers are indicative of the "hymen". She has a certain mythical virginity as contrasted with K.’s cabaret friend, Elsa. K.’s physical needs have not been consciously expressed or acknowledged by him. There is a sense of loss, for K. is trapped in uncertainty but maintains his relationship with Leni. His personal urges remain unfulfilled while his spiritual urge is dormant but lurking at present.

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