Imagine being so preoccupied with something that it slowly starts to take over one’s daily routine. Now imagine that preoccupation becoming an infatuation, which then becomes an obsession. This series of events can lead any person to a mental lapse like K. , the protagonist in Kafka’s The Trial. In The Trial, K. is forced to deal with a pending arrest throughout the entire novel. K. is now overwhelmed with a myriad of issues such as the infringement of human rights, the corruption of the court, and eventually his psychological collapse.
In the beginning of K. ‘s journey, the motif of violation of human rights becomes apparent through K. ‘s loss of rights, as well as the warders. K. loses his right to be an individual and conforms into the court’s desired vision of him. He also endures the added pressure of contemplating whether or not the court is fraudulent. Eventually, the courts need for him to conform leads to his obsession with his upcoming trial. Ultimately it becomes too much for K. to handle, and the result is his defeat.Order now
Throughout the beginning of the novel, the reader becomes overwhelmed with the fact that K. is preoccupied with what he is getting charged for. In this day and age the Miranda Rights force the arresting officers to declare what the suspect is being arrested for. However in The Trial, K. , the reader, and even the warders do not know what the accusation is. This is apparent when the warders conduct the original arrest by stating, “We are not authorized to tell you that. Go to your room and wait there.
Proceedings have been instituted against you and you will be informed of everything in due course” (Kafka 3). K. ‘s human rights are violated in this situation because the warders intrude in his personal property, as well as his abode. This proves to be a violation of privacy as well as an intrusion of space. K. addresses this in his court hearing: Some ten days ago I was arrested, in a manner that seems ridiculous even to myself, though that is immaterial at the moment. I was seized in bed before I could get up…
The room next to mine was requisitioned by two coarse warders… These warders, moreover, were degenerate ruffians, they deafened my ears with their gabble, they tried to induce me to bribe them, they attempted to get my clothes and underclothes from me under dishonest pretexts, they asked me to give them money ostensibly to bring me some breakfast after they had brazenly eaten my own breakfast under my eyes. (Kafka 43) In the courtroom, K. wants to relive, and amplify the way the warders treated him.
He strives to bring attention to the fallacies of how he was treated; however little does he know that these statements will backfire on him later. In The Trial, K. is not the only character to get mistreated, because the warders do also. This brings up the central irony of the plot. Because of K. ‘s statements, the warders encounter The Whipper, who in turn violates their rights. He violates their rights because he commits physical assault and battery for a punishment. This occurs because of K. ‘s statements in the court hearing.
This is evident when one day at work K. curiously opens the lumbar room because he heard noises, only to find The Whipper and the two warders. “One of the men, who was clearly in authority over the other two and took the eye first, was sheathed in a sort of dark leather garment… holding a rod in his hand with which to beat them” (Kafka 84). K. indirectly causes the pain and torture of two warders from his statements in the courtroom.
Moreover, the irony behind the situation is that the warders also causes the pain for K. K.is extremely empathetic because he feels responsible for the circumstance the warders were in, “I had no idea of all this, nor did I ever demand that you should be punished, I was only defending a principle,” (Kafka 84). Since K. feels that the warders mistreated him, he believes it is his duty to protect himself. Therefore, he creates this principle that pertains to the way that a person under arrest should be treated.
He implemented this principle into his brain and whatever does not fit it K. feels that he was violated. Another contributing factor for K.’s infatuation is the questionable corruptness of the court. This court system is very unkempt and manipulative. An example of the court being unkempt would be its lack of decisiveness, organization, and its unprofessional manner. When K. is first arrested the inspector states, “I can’t even confirm that you are even charged with an offense, or rather I don’t know whether you are” (Kafka 12). This proves that there is a serious lack of organization in the court system. How can a superior official not know the circumstances of the arrest? How is that just?
In addition, the court’s lack of decisiveness is also portrayed through the Painter’s explanation of the three possible acquittals. For example: There are three possibilities, that is, definite acquittal, ostensible acquittal, and indefinite postponement. Definite acquittal is, of course, the best, but I haven’t the slightest influence on that kind of verdict. As far as I know there is no single person who could influence the verdict of definite acquittal. (Kafka 152-153) The Painter states that there is only one definite acquittal, however, the chance of that is equivalent to winning the lottery.
The one statement that stands out in that quotation is how “no single person” can manipulate a definite acquittal. This reiterates that the court is extremely corrupt because in an organized court system the fate of a person is not decided by an influential person. For example, K. is at the courtroom when he comes across the woman who is working behind the desk. She is trying to offer him help through her connection with the Examining Magistrate. She says, “I fancy that the reports he sends up to the higher officials have some influence” (Kafka 54).
In a normal court system this behavior is frowned upon because of the personal connections, however not in this judicial system. Furthermore, K. claims that, “The guilt lies with the organization. It is the high officials who are guilty” (Kafka 86). The highest officials are guilty of running a corrupt court system. This is because the high officials are the ones with the most control, but it is apparent in The Trial that the system is extremely chaotic. How can the highest court officials run a functioning court system when they are all corrupt?
Moreover, how can a court system run if there is never a decision being made about the lingering trials? Both of these questions represent the uncertainties and the corruptness of the court which K. is forced into. The persistent thought of the court being corrupt has an extreme effect on K. That thought begins to consume him in a way that K. starts conforming the way the officials think and act. It then begins the psychological defeat in which he becomes fixated with his looming trial. K. becomes entirely obsessed with his case and the anticipation of the trial.
These are the examples of the psychological prison that he is putting himself through. K. ‘s emotional downfall begins when, “he assumes that he was tacitly expected to report himself again at the same address and at the same time” (Kafka 49). This is when K. begins to take full responsibility for his trial by starting to succumb to the daily pressures of the court. An example of this is when K. offers to be whipped instead of the warders, “If a sacrifice had been needed, it would almost have been simpler to take off his own clothes and offer himself to the Whipper as a substitute for the warders” (Kafka 88).
This also reiterates the irony between the warders and K. because once again he is trying to be the savior for a situation in which he created. Furthermore, K. is now beginning to devote his whole time at work to the defense of his case. “He had given his clerk instructions to admit no one, on the plea that he was occupied with an important piece of work… The thought of his case never left him now” (Kafka 113). On top of the ever-lingering thoughts of his case in general, he is now taking responsibility to formulate a defense.
This is usually a task for a lawyer to do, however K. feels it necessary for him to take it upon himself: In this defense he would give a short account of his life, and when he came to an event of any importance explain for what reasons he had acted as he did, intimate whether he approved or condemned his way of action in any retrospect, and adduce grounds for the condemnation or approval. (Kafka 113) In the above quotation, K. is attempting to find a reason for him to be arrested by closely analyzing a series of events in his life. By K.
doing this, he is starting to realize that he is giving up the fight. He is letting the trial consume his life, as well as his everyday routine. There is no escape from his prison now. He recognizes this when: Two men came to his lodging. In frock coats, pallid and plump with top hats that were apparently irremovable… Without having been informed of their visit, K. was sitting also dressed in black in an armchair near the door, slowly pulling on a pair of new gloves that fitted tightly over the fingers, looking as if he were expecting guests. (Kafka 223)
This quotation sums up K. ‘s emotional downfall through the overwhelming symbolism. For example, K. dressing in black symbolizes the end of both the lingering trial as well as acknowledging his death. Also, it is bizarre that K. does not expect visitors, yet waits so intently near the door, putting on his new gloves before he knows he is going outside. This represents the overwhelming presence of his case because K. is assuming the outcome of the situation. This confirms that K. has become wholeheartedly obsessed with his trial because he is devoting a year to not die for it.
Kafka takes the readers, as well as K. , on an absolute whirlwind throughout the novel. K. ‘s downfall is expressed by showing the three separate stages of his preoccupation, his infatuation, as well as his obsession with his arrest. This is shown throughout the year through a series of events such as the mistreatment of human beings, the corruptness and disorganized court, as well as K. ‘s need to have complete and utter control over his case. There were plenty of questions left unanswered throughout The Trial, however the only one that was answered was the fate of K.