The Trial
Franz Kafka
Contributed by Sung Miele
Chapter 8

K. decides to withdraw his case from the lawyer, Huld. He wants to do it facing him in person, watch his reaction and then decide when he knocks at the door some stranger (Block) opens the door, dressed improperly. He is a client of the lawyer’s. Leni is busy as usual, making soup for the lawyer. K. suspects that block is Leni’s lover. Leni thinks that K. is jealous of block. Block is a grain dealer. He says that Huld has been his lawyer for more then five years. He (Huld) handles both civil and criminal cases. Block has several lawyers to handle his case. He has lost a lot of money and a great deal of his energy in the case. Block also says that he was present in the courts during K.’s trial. People in the court are superstitious and looking at K.’s determined expression they think that his case will not turn out well. He also says that superstitious are increasing in the modern age though they are traditional Block says that all the petitions he had made them out to be useless. Since they are written in Latin block could understand very little. The interviews conducted by the lawyer are just a routine exercise. The court messengers visit Dr. Huld often. He also informs him about "great lawyers". Leni treats Block as if he is related. She seems to be too familiar with Block and thus irritates K.

Block says he approached smaller lawyers expecting instant results. K. is shocked that to find Block there most of the time. Leni is less polite to K. and feels K. does not pay much attention to him. Block feels that K.’s waiting for six months is not as long a duration, compared to his waiting. Leni seems to be fond of Block because K. does not give her the attention that she needs. While Huld handled Block’s case Block patiently went through all the inquiries and interrogations, providing evidence, making petition. The petitions are written in Latin. It has details like flattering the officials the officials self-praising about the lawyer himself humbling himself before the courts; quotations from similar cases in the part. Though it is scrupulously executed it has had no effect on the case. There is no progress. The case is also hot set to rest. The interviews are merely ritualistic and Blocks’ responses are mechanical. The court does not seem ever intent to restart his case. Dr. Huld has classed himself among the great lawyers and described the lesser ones as "petty fogging", who were in a sense greedy. He says that there are great, small and petty fogging lawyers in that hierarchy. Everybody keeps dreaming of great lawyers. Great lawyers choose their clients and the clients who are not pinned down by the lower courts.

Though ordinary lawyers go through endless, boring procedures great lawyers are unreachable. Again K. is larger in size, physically than Block. Height gives him a sense of superiority. Leni warns K. against trusting Block. The lawyer ignores Block and stalls all the interviews, while Block sleeps in the maid’s room. This is disgusting to K.’s mind. He suddenly feels like getting rid of Leni and the lawyers. The thought of sharing Leni with Block disgusts him. Block wants K. to trade one of his secrets with him. She tries to physically stops K. from dismissing the lawyer.

The lawyer sees that Block has locked the door and asks whether he is running away from Leni. The lawyer says that Leni loves all the clients who return her love. The lawyer points at Leni’s strange nature, of loving all accused men. He says accused men stand out prominently. They seem to be attractive. Block finds Leni attractive. The lawyer as usual evades the issue of the progress of the case. So K. dismisses him abruptly and says that he does not need his services. The lawyer persuades K. not to take the drastic step and says that he likes K. he says that many of his clients have reacted in the same manner. K. is surprised that the lawyer requests him not to withdraw. K. wonders why he persists. Is he helping his fellow judges or does he not want to face them with the loss of a single case? The lawyer says K. has been treated too well, but he is arrogant. K. is made to sit beside the bed on the spot that the chief clerk occupied when K. first met the lawyer.

Block comes in and complains to the lawyer about K. Block trembles at the lawyer’s voice shouting. The lawyer questions Block about his contacts with other lawyers implicating K. though K. never breathed a word to the lawyer about Block’s ventures. Huld commends Blocks’ lawyer to kneel like an animal. Luckily Block does not obey him. He remonstrates that though he is guilty he is not an invalid like the lawyer. The lawyer wants to insult and demean him in K.’s presence, which provokes Block. Block also tells the lawyer that K. is impatient while he himself has been waiting for five years. Leni tries to pacify the lawyer by stroking him. He also asks Leni how he has been behaving. He is treated like a dog.

The lawyer says that the judge looked into Block’s case and gave an unfavorable reply. In spite of Leni trying to soften his stand the lawyer says that the judges are not willing to take up Block’s case. The lawyer does not even address Block by his name. He is scared to even stir from his place. Though the lawyer insists that Block lives in his house the lawyers bill his case as being hopeless. Block is characterized by the lawyer has being dirty and unattractive, even revolting. The lawyer tries insisting that Block need not be worried if the judge is dissatisfied with his case once. Block is portrayed as plucking the fur rug like dogs while Leni warns him to pay attention.


We wonder if Block is made a spectacle of helplessness when the Judge gives up his case as being hopeless, in order to convince K not to give up on Huld. But the very action is revolting to K. He decides to take his case off Huld’s hands. Block talks about the superstition that people still hold on to. The Czech are a traditional superstitious race in modern times. The dog is used as a metaphor of humiliation thought the story. Block could be made to crawl into Kennel if necessary. Leni says she had locked him inside the room and given water through the ventilator.

The metaphor of swimming and non-swimming is evident in the character of Leni who "swims with the current" and completely identifies herself with the judicial system. Here the ancient fairy tale motif of a self-sacrificing maiden rescued from an imprisoned state undergoes a change. Leni knows she can never be exchanged for Elsa, who is never self sacrificing. She dominates her defendants. She finds them attractive as they are branded with the stereotype of the Biblical Cain. She derives a great deal of pleasure by bossing over them. She relates these erotic experiences to Huld, the lawyer for his pleasure.

Block is forced to exhibit his humiliation in Huld’s presence. K. concludes that this would be happening with every dependent, whoever is Huld’s client. But Leni is not vicious. She is just part of a system playing a monotonous role and aids Block’s masochism. This disgusts K. and he decides to take his case off Huld’s hands. Huld and Leni characterize a system, which affects modern society.

As Huld states, it is a fact that the lawyer guides the client and channels the course of the trial. Joseph K. is dependent on him completely. Huld seems to carry the entire court on his shoulders. The lawyer representing so many cases is a sick man, overburdening himself. He symbolizes the aging judicial system. The nurse and mistress, Leni warns him. He mediates between the dependent and the court. In fact he identifies himself with the dependent. His feeling of coldness is symbolic of the glacial cold where man suppers in his response to universal nature and the elements, whereas the court is bustling and sweaty, teeming with life.

It leads us to ask who could Huld be? He enumerates so many ways in which the client could lose himself. The world according to Huld seems to be enigmatic. Men’s efforts have their limits; K.’s efforts to withdraw the case could end in defeat. He cannot deal with a court case like he does with a Business deal for the Bank. Huld render the situation into hopelessness. The lawyer is centered in the powerlessness of the human spirit and emphasizes the presence of a divine power. Faith is the substitute for knowledge; submitting to faith replaces imagination and protests. There is some mysterious "grace" which can help him if he surrenders and resigns himself to his fate.

Huld seems to stand for an unusual sacrifice. He seems to be suffering for others at a symbolic level. As the sacrificer he has the power to grant "grace" to those who surrender to him completely. Then he sees them pass safely through the verdict and reach a land where there is no judging or punishment.

We see here a mixture of religious hope and sexual masochism with reference to Leni. Huld in German also means ’grace.’ Grace is offered in the form of a ceremony and so Block says that the petitions are in a great deal of Latin, which he does not understand. They go through the process of drafting and redrafting.

If one views Leni’s offer of exchange for Elsa’s place in his affections it is submitting oneself to biological instincts. In a Christian sense it is also a lack of grace. The Huld-Leni figures show the turn events take if mediators assume the role of authorities. K. decides to fight firmly rather than seek help. We are also reminded of his uncle who tells K. that he would bring "disgrace" to the family. But the uncle does not face the reality. It also seems to be fatalistic that one has to be reconciled to one’s circumstances. The Judiciary has to be stared only by the lawyer. A client has to keep a low profile and not attract attention. This is the view expressed by powers who control everybody, whichever may be the institution.

People seem to be dangerously losing their individuality. In spite of Huld’s convoluted viewpoint he designates himself on a lesser degree than the great lawyers. He guides people safely through the verdict. He is also vacillating between weakness and pride. In a modern sense he represents unconditional sacrifice in earthly terms. Huld’s character can be comprehended only in this manner in his relationship to Leni. Leni is bound with the physical, biological aspect in liberating outcasts and men with carefree joy.

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