K searches for his identification papers, which he has trouble finding, and while doing so, Franz gives him a long and no doubt meaningful, but incomprehensible, look, and K. finds himself staring back (Kafka 8). After this, Franz explains that the court is knowledgeable enough to not need any identification papers and that the Law states, the court is attracted by guilt and has to send [us] guards out (Kafka 9). After this, he is allowed to go about his life as he did before, and is expected to attend inquiries about his case. This minor scene sets the tone for the courts impending presence on Ks life. It is a foreshadowing of Ks trial and being a prisoner to the court. The character of Franz should not be overlooked, as the name was chosen for a reason, as well as the last name K. Perhaps Kafka portrayed himself through the character Franz. Franz translates to free man, which he most certainly is not. Those who work for the court are prisoners, and have no freedom.
When K. faces Franz in a peculiar stare, it symbolizes the moment from when K. goes from a free man, to a guilty prisoner. He searches for his identity, his innocence, but cannot find it in that moment. The court knows guilt; it senses it in K. When he goes to his first inquiry, he doesnt tell anyone where he is going decides to walk, so no one else can be involved, not even a cab driver. This single action indicates guilt, not seeking help or keeping things to himself shows that he has something to hide. K. has trouble finding the court, and when he sees the different staircases and paths to get there, he starts to realize the situation. He remembers what the guards told him and recognizes that the inquiry would have to be located off whatever stairway K. chanced to choose (Kafka 39). When he walks in and announces that he is there, one half of the room applauds him. Loving this attention, he seeks the approval of the other half for the duration of the inquiry.
This symbolizes his inner conscience. One side is telling him that he is right, he is innocent and he is in the correct mindset. Ks need for the approval from other side of the room that is quiet and unimpressed is a direct sign of denial and guilt. When we know weve done something wrong, we go out of our way to deny it and prove it to the non-believers. He gives a speech on his unjust and flawed arrest and puts the guilt on the court, instead of himself. When the flogger is punishing the guards, he tries to stop it, but is too focused on the late-night workers in the bank finding out what is going on. The next day, his guilt over the guard takes over his mind. He goes out to meet his colleague but cannot stop thinking about being monitored by his work. Even at the moment of his impeding death, K. does not accept defeat. For the rest of the novel, the court has resided in K.s mind. He is nervous, fearful, and anxious; these are all signs of guilt. We never find out what exactly K. did wrong but through the narration of the novel and Ks progressing thoughts, we know he is guilty.
The juxtaposition of themes of guilt and religion is remarkably prevalent throughout The Trial. Joseph K.s religion is not directly mentioned in the novel, but it is clear that this is something of a struggle for him. Religion is not something lucid and straightforward for anyone; there are complicated factors and it is not always tangible. Right from the beginning, the court presented itself with a mysterious ambience, leaving K. with questions and uncertainty. From an authoritative perspective, K. feared the court. The court was everywhere, and had control over everyone, and this was something K. learned quickly. Shortly after his arrest, K. eats an apple, one of the most common biblical symbols. This short piece of information is the perfect introduction to the court; the court is the tree of knowledge that K. believes he has innocently become a part of.
The first inquiry is held on a Sunday, which could either address that it was common to have a public trial on a Sunday morning, and the large crowd would not be attending church, or implies something deeper. In this novel, the church is the main religion. It is all knowing and powerful. Before the initial inquiry, K. looks for the court and finds that it is in a mysterious, almost unreachable location. However, the court has the ability to appear anywhere, from its offices in any apartment of the slums or a room in well-known bank, after hours. In the scene with K. and the preacher in the cathedral, it becomes clear that the court has authority over the church. K. and the priest, who mysteriously mentioned that he summoned K. to the church, have a conversation about guilt. When they part ways, he finds out that the preacher is another prisoner to the court.
It seems that in this novel, the court represents God. Much like the court, the presence of God is not something that can be escaped from. It is mentioned many times that the court senses guilt. Once K. grasps this idea, it is clear that he starts to fall apart. Those from which he seeks help from cannot help him; it is up to himself only. Ks anxiety and sense of guilt throughout the novel is displayed among many religious themes. K. spends the entirety of the novel, one year of his life, denying his actions and attesting to his innocence, and his sins are left a mystery. Kafkas intentions throughout this novel are clear. This trial that K. goes through is a trial of his life, of his character, that reflects back to Franz Kafka himself. As mentioned in class, Kafka grew up in a sacrileges home. His father despised Judaism, despite coming from a strong lineage of Rabbis.
Later on in his life, Kafka embraced his heritage and took it upon himself to learn more. There is no doubt that Kafka felt some sort of guilt during his life resulting from his upbringing. He also suffered from social anxiety. K.s character is a manifestation and illustration of Kafkas guilt. Perhaps if the novel was finished, we would have learned Ks sins. However, the mystery of Ks guilt makes the novel more powerful. The backwards process of this court system, declaring K. guilty and predetermining his punishment is a reflection of Kafkas life. He starts his life being guilty, religiously and self-consciously, but unlike K., ultimately reverses his guilt and takes action. K. is the representation of what Kafka could have been, and fortunately did not become.
Kafka, Franz. The Trial. Trans. Breon Mitchell. New York: Schocken Books Inc., 1998. Print.
Miller, Matthew. Class Lecture. Magic Realism. Stern College.