The Trial : A New Translation Based on the Restored Text Novel Based Essay


Franz Kafka is one of the most popular authors of the 20th century. His works had a profound impact on western literature in the 20th century. Kafka’s work inspired work in various field of literature. The Trial is arguably one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. Kafka started working on the novel in the early 1910s. However, he never finished writing it. He gave the manuscript to Brod, his friend. Upon his death, Brod edited the manuscript and into a coherent novel and had it published. The manuscript has since been inherited by various parties some who had to pay millions of dollars to acquire it. New editions of The Trial have since been published. They have helped in restoring the textual integrity and language of the original manuscript.

Conscious and Unconscious world

The Trial is the depiction of the issues facing a young bank official, Joseph K. when he is arrested “one fine morning” despite the fact that he has not done anything wrong. His arrest makes outrages him. Incidentally, Joseph is arrested on his thirtieth birthday. One year later, during his thirty-first birthday, the warders who had previously arrested him come for him again. They take to a quarry just outside the town and kill him while claiming that they are acting according to the law. Ironically, Joseph lets them kill him (Kafka, 2012).

The novel depicts a man who witnesses a strange form of justice that is not logical. As such, The Trial is a recurring theme in the novel. Comparing The Trial with other novels by Kafka, one would confirm that in all his novels, people are guilty of something. However, the punishments they receive are not proportional to their transgressions. Joseph strives to determine the nature of his guilt throughout the novel. The reader’s attention should be focused on the court of justice and the invisible force that is present throughout the book. The court insists that Joseph is guilty. It attains this by striving to make inroads into Joseph’s conscience. The court also strives to make him realize the nature of his transgressions so that he may atone for it. However, Joseph attempts to use the court to understand the nature of his transgressions. This creates a scenario whether both Joseph and the court are pursuing each other. However, they never meet. Kafka uses to novel to reveal the raw nerves of human experience. However, he does not deviate from the fact he is dealing with a human situation. The novel raises several questions in the reader’s mind. It raises the question as to how Joseph can be arrested for charges that he does not understand throughout the novel and how he can be finally executed despite not knowing the charges (Kafka, 2012).

Kafka uses The Trial as a symbolic representation of the unconscious mind. He affirms that the unconscious mind usually accuses and condemns the conscious mind. The unconscious mind of the protagonist is represented by the police inspector, Franz, who arrests him. However, the police inspector does not confirm whether Joseph is charge with an offense or not. The utterances of the police inspector and the warders make the reader wonder whether Joseph is indeed guilty or not. Joseph is also trying to answer the same questions (Langguth, 1968).

Joseph’s breakfast enables the reader to get a peek of his unconscious world. During the morning of his arrest, his landlady’s cook did not bring him breakfast, which was strange as it had never happened before. Joseph considers having breakfast to be vital. Therefore, the cook’s failure to bring him breakfast makes him have a strange feeling. The second chapter also highlights the importance that Joseph has attached to breakfast. When Joseph is summoned to court he rushes to the court without having breakfast. Joseph has breakfast of only one apple and brandy. This depicts the picture of the original sin of man, which ultimately resulted in his expulsion from paradise. Therefore, Kafka uses signs from the spiritual world to depict Joseph’s tribulations.

The time of his arrest also highlights Joseph’s unconscious as he arrested on the morning of his thirtieth birthday. Joseph acknowledges that he may die in a cruel manner on the morning of his birthday, which would be cruel irony. This makes his start harboring feelings of guilt. Joseph’s feelings provide readers with an opportunity to scrutinize the unconscious world. In this context, the ‘court’ is the unconscious world. Dr. Huld, a lawyer was the first individual to attempt to tackle the issue of ‘court.’ He claims that he is a unique lawyer since he guides his clients without letting down even after the verdict is pronounced. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Huld humiliates Block, a tradesman and another accused individual who was Huld’s client. Huld humiliates him such that he no longer seemed like a client but his mere lap dog. Block claims that Huld’s advice was meaningless. Joseph also attempts to deal with guilt through Titorelli, a court painter who knows so much about the operations of the courts lowest level.

The priest provides Joseph with the last attempt to deal with his guilt. The priest is also the prison chaplain. He tells Joseph that he has been found guilty of his offenses. The priest uses the parable ‘Before the Law’ to highlight Joseph’s plight. The author uses the parable to portray the unconscious world. According to the parable, the unconscious world comprises of an ocean of nothingness that has a slammed door that is protected by one thousand doorkeepers. The doorkeepers are the agents of man’s unconscious. Within the unconscious world, man’s constant desire to pass through a door is never met despite all his efforts. This is the situation that Joseph faces. Titorelli contends that the highest court is not accessible to everyone. As such, the unconscious world is also not accessible to everyone. Joseph ultimately has a tragic death under the butcher’s knife. This represents the killing of the conscious by the unconscious despite the futile process of striving to understand it (Langguth, 1968).

Death and Freedom from the Unconscious

Joseph’s unconscious is the source of his anxiety throughout the novel. As such, during the end of the novel, his death frees him from his unconsciousness. Therefore, according to the novel, the anxiety of death is one of the major issues facing people. If people free themselves of the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life, they would become free, which would enable them express themselves better. As such, death is the only thing that has the capability of making man become himself since it releases him from the trap of the unconscious (Kafka, 2012).

Symbolism is also represented in The Trial using Sunday. Sunday represents the unconscious. This is highlighted by the fact that Joseph only has nightmares on Sunday nights. Joseph has nightmares only on Sunday nights since the pressure of the work he performs on Sundays do not protect his unconscious mind. Kafka also holds that the labyrinthine house are depiction of the unconscious mind. The telephone call in The Trial also represents a call from the unconscious mind. It may be an indication that the trial is occurring in Joseph’s mind. The call informs Joseph that he is supposed to go to court the next Sunday (Kafka, 2012).

According to The Trial, the court is in an outlying suburban street, in an area where Joseph has never visited. The area also refers to the unconscious as Joseph could not recognize his unconscious. Joseph thought that it would be easy to recognize the court. However, there was no sign for the court. Therefore, he unknowingly penetrated deeper into the court. This may be an indication of Joseph’s experience with the unconscious world. He did not know about the existence of the unconscious world. This makes him venture deeper and deeper into the unconscious world. The court in The Trial is characterized by thick air. The thickness of air may be a psychological representation of pressure, which is one of the major characteristics of Joseph’s unconscious mind.


Alienation is also common throughout the novel. The Trial highlights the alienation the alienation of an existential being, Joseph, from another Invisible Being. Therefore, despite the fact that it is debatable as to which law that is representative of the Invisible Being that has led to his arrest, he does not know who filed the charges against him. Therefore, Joseph is subjected to a trial involving chronic anxiety as he waits for his fate. He becomes anxious immediately he realizes that someone filed charges against him. This creates an atmosphere that is so dehumanizing that death is a preferred option instead of continuing to live in such an environment. Joseph falls into this type of inescapable alienation. He believes that behind the net of alienation there is shadowy bureaucracy that is so powerful. Joseph feels as if he is a bird trapped in a cage of the irresponsible bureaucracies (Caputo-Mayr & Herz, 2000).

The Culmination of The Trial

The Trial comes to an end when Joseph’s receives an informal invitation during his thirty-first birthday. He is requested to act normally. The informal hospitality exposes Joseph’s anxiety and terror. He is unable to hide it. He only thinks of himself. As such, his emptiness alienates him from other people. Failure to connect with the outside world reduces his ability to distinguish his standing on the law and in relation to other people. Joseph’s alienation from others makes him fail to acknowledge the presence of employees from his bank until the inspector informs him of their presence. The characters in the court are different from the characters that Joseph meets daily. Incompatibility with the surrounding makes Joseph alienate himself within his existential dilemma. The law takes advantage of the uncompromising dilemma. The forces that people cannot understand enable the law to create a bureaucratic system against people on trial, which facilitates their incarceration or killing due to various crimes. In such an instance, the people on trial act as witnesses to their unconscious being. It makes people strive to acquire a form of redemption. However, despite the incessant search there is no redemption (Caputo-Mayr & Herz, 2000).

The Trial raises several fundamental questions. People should not simply point to God or a higher being; they should instead question God’s being. The Trial perceives the law as the protected god of bureaucrats. It facilitates the execution of any individual who questions it. According to the novel, the law strives to isolate people. It makes man to not only lack trust in other people but also alienate from himself. At this point, man is vulnerable to the law. Joseph found himself in such a situation. He opted to be killed instead of remaining in the same situation (Corngold, 1988).

This highlights the dark picture of a victim of the justice system. The system prevents an individual from struggling more. It may even prevent him from learning the charges laid against him. People in such a situation do not know who are their judges and the laws that would be used to charge them. They respond to the silence of the parties that charged them by engaging in frenzied activity. This ultimately makes the individuals become so aggressive in their struggle for freedom that they finally end up destroying themselves. The invisibility of the parties that charge the people has a negative impact as it makes the accused persons to become more involved as they look for answers. However, the days do not bring any progress. This may highlight the plight of people who are wrongful convicted due to various mistakes in the criminal justice system (Kafka, 2012).

The Other World

The Other World poses a significant pressure to Joseph since it is imposed upon him. He does not comprehend clearly despite the fact that it determines his fate. Therefore, he does not have a choice in determining his destiny. In addition, the court officials who arrested him do not know how to help him since their fulltime working in the judicial system makes them fail to have a good understanding of human relations. This makes it difficult for people to unify among themselves since they are controlled by a force that is above them. This is a representation of the ambiguity of the force of law (Caputo-Mayr & Herz, 2000).

This may relate to the work environment in the contemporary world. Working in a bureaucratic system turns people into robots. It makes people become merely ‘paper-pushers’ who do not know the implications of their work. In some instances, their work may have dire consequences on other parties. However, since they are simply a clog in the system, they can do nothing to prevent the negative impact of their actions. In some instances, they may even be oblivious of the implications of their work (Kafka, 2012).


The Trial emphasizes the futility of working with the Other World or ‘court’ since it is impossible for the entities to relate to the faculties of an individual. Therefore, Kafka alleges that the quest to associate with the Other World or ‘court’ would only alienate an individual from not only other members of the society but also from the ‘self.’ This would be detrimental to the well-being of the individual.

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