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I. Book Details

Title The Trial

Author Franz Kafka
Genre Philosophical Fiction, Dystopian Fiction,
Absurdist Fiction
Written in 1914
Published in 1925
Published by Verlag Die Schmiede - literature publishing house
in Berlin
Recognition/s Listed in Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century
and as No. 2 of the Best German Novels of the
Twentieth Century
II. Summary of the Book
The Trial tells the story of a man named Josef
K. a chief clerk in a bank, who on his 30th birthday
was house-arrested by two policemen for only a
couple of hours in the morning without even
explaining the reason for such arrest, for the two did
not even know it themselves. His trial spanned for
one year where, in the course thereof, he met
people who have something to do - in one way or
another - with the courts and who gave him
information of how it actually works. The story
culminated on his 31st birthday where he was killed
by the stabbing of his heart.
III. Plot Details and Legal Themes

 On his 30th birthday, Josef K. or “K.”, the chief clerk of a

large bank, is arrested by two policemen without telling him
of the charge against him.

 During his first hearing, K. makes a long speech denigrating

the whole process he found himself in, declaring how farcical
the proceedings are and that all is a show merely to entrap
him, an innocent man, just as what many ordinary people are
subjected to. He also made complaints referring to the acts of
the policemen who arrested him who insinuated bribes from
III. Plot Details and Legal Themes

 In a storeroom at his own bank, K. discovers the two policemen

who arrested him being whipped by a flogger for asking K. for
bribes. The policemen tell K. that what they did was the
common practice among their colleagues and that their
colleagues are just lucky enough for not having anyone
complained against them unlike what K. did.

 Dr Huld, lawyer of K, prepared the first documents for

submission to court, but K. only found them long and
meaningless. It was full of Latin words, phrases he could not
understand and praises for the judges. He was told by Dr. Huld
that these documents may never be read or may be misplaced
or even lost, but nonetheless, these should still be submitted to
court. Further, Dr Huld says that his most important task is to
use his connections and deal with powerful court officials in
III. Plot Details and Legal Themes

 K was referred to a painter named Titorelli, an official painter

of portraits for judges. K. learns from Titorelli that there are
only 3 outcomes of a case:

1) absolute acquittal;
2) apparent acquittal; and
3) deferment.

However, Titorelli does not know of any defendant that has

ever been absolutely acquitted. Apparent acquittal is where the
case is only provisionally dismissed. Deferment is where the
case is maintained in its earliest proceedings. He offers to help
III. Plot Details and Legal Themes
 K meets the prison chaplain and the latter tells him the parable of
the doorkeeper and the man. It goes this way:

The man from the country-side thought access to the law is always
available for everyone but found out at the gate of the law that there will be
a lot of difficulty along the way. He was not allowed entry by the doorkeeper.
For years and years he waited and bribed the doorkeeper in the hope of
changing his mind. But the doorkeeper only accepted the bribes but still did
not allow the man entry to the gate. The man submitted to the words of the
doorkeeper and patiently waited longer. Alas, the man was dying and the last
of his possessions were now given to the doorkeeper. He mustered all his
strength and asked the doorkeeper one last question, “'Everyone wants access
to the law, how come, over all these years, no one but me has asked to be let
in?” And the doorkeeper answered him, “Nobody else could have got in this
way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I'll go and close it.”
III. Plot Details and Legal Themes

 On the eve of K.’s 31st birthday, two men arrived at his

boardinghouse. They went to a quarry where the two men
place K's head on a platform. One of the men produces a
double-edged butcher knife and the two men pass it back and
forth between them but eventually one of them held his
shoulder while the other stabbed him in the heart and twists
the knife twice.
IV. Evaluation and Reflection
 In The Trial, Kafka embodied through a novel the situation of
the society he is in as he perceived it. How people are so
helpless and defenseless in the face of the dictator. He laid
out the corruption pervading the entirety of the justice
system. Not one positive attribute of the justice system was
mentioned in the story.

 Bribery – money and women

 Influence/ Connections
 Denial of civil rights