The Trial by Franz Kafka

Joseph K. is the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s one of the most renowned works, a novel The Trial. K. is accused of some crime. Throughout the novel, the man is not familiarized with the charges, nor is the audience. Basically, the plot of the novel revolves around K.’s case and how he is dealing with the situation. K. holds “a relatively high position” in one of the local banks; this fact implies that his social skills are at a high level. Joseph K. positions himself as a rational and reasonable personality; in this respect, the fact that K is washing himself an apple for breakfast beforehand is self-explanatory. At the same time, the man can be characterized as an inexperienced individual, who is easily tempted and attracted to women. K. is decent and strict. At the same time, he is capable of spontaneous, frivolous, and bold decisions.

Occasionally, fear of own life grows within K. and results in absurd situations. The Trial can be viewed as a string of events testifying its protagonist’s moral corruption. Decadence, despair, and absurdity are the distinctive features of the novel. The novel’s last chapter, in particular, is a marker of the protagonist’s maturity.

Symbolically, the events of the novel describe (roughly) one year in the life of Joseph K., namely, the last year of his life. With regard to this fact, it is important to admit the following. There is something menacing in the narrator’s voice, his manner of narrating the events, and the overall tone of the novel. There is no way of getting to know whether the narrator is reliable or not. At the same time, the narration can be classified as the third-person omniscient. By and large, the author’s aim is to build up suspense in a reader and stir up the audience’s interest.

The Trial by Franz Kafka is an example of the postmodernist prose. Therefore, Joseph K. can be considered a new type of a man. A distinctive feature of Franz Kafka’s creative manner is that most protagonists in his works are merely the reflections of the depicted societies. Joseph K. makes no exception. The Court and the Law, which is striking the fear into the minds of people, can be viewed as the allusion to the contemporary autocracy and totalitarianism. Circumstantially, The Trial by Franz Kafka addresses the issues of conformity and formalities. However, most importantly, it is possible to assume that by his novel, the author intends to argue that the whole social convention is based on a blunder.

The last chapter of The Trial reads, “After some brief formalities at the door of the flat when they first arrived, the same formalities were repeated at greater length at K.’s door”. With regard to this statement, it should be noted that the whole novel should be regarded as the coherent whole. Apart from being a series of events testifying the protagonist’s moral, the novel can be viewed as a string of formalities. In the final chapter of the novel, Joseph K. is wearing black clothes, just the same as the watchmen and wardens wear. This detail, in particular, is important because it illustrates K.’s conformity: the protagonist is broken by the system and becomes its part. In this respect, an observation as follows can be made. One of the distinctive features of the Romantic/Non-Realistic and humanist epochs in art is that a human being is perceived as a measure of all things. The realistic epochs, however, dethrone the human nature and the very idea of the person’s mission. Therefore, in the realistic epochs, a human being is considered a part of a system. It is possible to assume that in the novel, Joseph K.’s death implies Franz Kafka’s intention to proclaim human life the highest value. At the same time, the author argues that there is almost no difference between the heroes and villains.


The idea is the following. Presumably, Franz Kafka is restating the statement that the good and the evil co-exist within any human being. In other words, the good and the evil are the two extremes of the human nature. Responding to the wicked will with more wicked will leads to nothing but the spread of violence. Moreover, people’s minds and souls are easily corrupted. Another reference to the concepts of conformity and totalitarianism is illustrated by the following detail, “Whenever they passed under a lamp K. tried to see his companions more clearly …”. Fear and terror are faceless. This fact presupposes that both may easily go unnoticed.

In the last chapter’s episodes, K. is “disgusted” by the cleanliness of the faces of his convoys. In this respect, it is important to consider the following. No life exists without a spot of griminess. This particular episode indicates that Joseph K. has finally seen the state of things in their real light. A few moments later, K. realizes that there is no point in resisting. In the moment of the deepest despair, the man decides to stand up for his right to live.

An episode of Joseph K.’s death is of immense importance. The episode itself can be viewed as the quintessence of absurdity in the novel. The Trial by Franz Kafka ends as follows: “… it was as if the shame of it should outlive him”. Assuming the idea that the author of the novel proclaims life the highest value is true complies with the premise stating that each person is obliged to live well and has the right of dying with dignity. Joseph K.’s case is the case of a person, who no longer fits into the society, to living in which he or she was once accustomed. In the novel, the Court and the Law, as well as the trial itself, are faceless. Evidently, they play the role of the entities representing the evil. Even though Joseph K. is dismissive of the virtue, he is far from being vicious. In spite of the fact that the man’s moral corruption is self-evident, he barely changes throughout the novel. Therefore, Joseph K. can be regarded as a flat character. The only change that K. is going through is his desire to conform more and the fact that he is becoming more patient and lenient. At the same time, it is necessary to admit that by the end of the novel, Joseph K. has become braver and more resolute. Even though the author leaves the ending open, the action of the novel itself comes to a logical end.

While characterizing the protagonist of the novel, The Trial, close attention should be paid to his name. In this particular case, a reader is familiar with the main character’s first name and the initial letter of his last name. In another novel by Franz Kafka, titled The Castle, the audience is familiar with the initial letter of either a first name or a last name of the protagonist. It is significant that the protagonist in The Castle is called K., as well. The end of a conversation between Joseph K. and the prison chaplain reads as follows, “It [the Court] accepts you when you come and it lets you go when you leave”. This particular quote implies the protagonist’s tragic end. As it has been stated previously, the Court and the Law refer to autocracy and totalitarianism. At the same time, they can be viewed as the allusion to society itself.

To sum up, it is necessary to restate the information. Joseph K. is the main character of the novel by Franz Kafka, titled The Trial. The novel comprises ten chapters; its plot revolves around bringing the charges against K., which is followed by his prosecution. The events described in the novel testify the moral corruption and fall of the main character that lead to his death in the novel’s final episode. Nevertheless, the ending is opened. For this reason, it is not clear whether Joseph K. committed a crime or not. All things considered, Joseph K. proves himself to be neither a good nor a bad person. The last words that K. utters make a reader sympathize with him. By and large, The Trial by Franz Kafka is a story of a man, who attempted to fit into the world and society, to which he believed he belonged. For sure, something is wrong with the world depicted in the novel. As an integral part of society, Joseph K. is subject to its influence. Consequently, something does not feel right about the main character. That fact that Joseph K. is being prosecuted suggests that he no longer belongs to the world, to living in which he once was accustomed. All in all, Joseph K. is a type of a stranger. The man possesses a set of qualities that the novel’s society can barely tolerate, for instance, an agile mind, rationalism, and common sense. Therefore, The Trial by Franz Kafka allegorizes the tragedy of an individual and society at large. In particular, the author shows the aftermaths of the misuse of power and the misinterpretation of law and how each of these aspects affects the ordinary citizens.