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MonkeyNotes-The Trial by Franz Kafka
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OVERALL Analysis

Character Analysis

Joseph K.

The protagonist faces a crisis in his life when a mysterious court charges him with an offence. Neither he nor the reader is aware of any specific charge right till the end of the novel. But he senses unrest within himself, to clear his name and to seek justice. In the innermost recesses of his mind he understands this as the divine challenge to man. He listens to this inner voice and he runs all over the city of Prague, superficially to extricate himself from the trial seeking escape and withdrawal. He is torn between two realities - one of the well-ordered official post at the bank and the disorderly, chaotic world of the court of law. Though he seems to be completely in charge of his existence in the modern world, the power of the court is dependent on the spiritual urges within K. himself. His unknown guilt and "bad conscience" drive him repeatedly to the court.

The court is powerful in the sense that its law is inaccessible to K. in shaping his desired destiny. This is representative of the divine court demanding that he justify his right to existence in the real world. His bourgeois way of life is disturbed. This sets him free to rethink on the unconquered spiritual aspect of his life. This is a world dominated by injustice and tolerated by god. K. is the unbeliever, deeply conscious of his right. He regards the world as chaotic and his destiny as undefeatable. The "incident law books" have a superhuman life-power, but they do not endow man with any high responsibility. He resists and complains against the court.

The thought of the junior clerks with their allegorical portrayals and obscure standards by which they apply rules gives rise to night Martian images in K.'s soul. Their piled up documents are the past buried in man's unconscious soul, bottomless threatening to surface in conscious life. The clerks would like K.'s ego to become responsible for this buried past. K.'s defeat and failure finally is his refusal to accept the burden of the world or of his soul.


When K. focuses the court fails to establish his communication with the court. He does not confess his guilt and does not realize it could be connected with the supernatural. He tells the priest in the Cathedral arguing how can any man be considered guilty. He feels no man can judge another while the priest opines that all guilty men talk like that. He is the chosen one of god, his guilt is like that of the son in 'The Judgement'. It is not a personal crime but connected with that of mankind, the fall of man in Judaic - Christian philosophy.

K. is also the victim of delusion in prejudging the court and complaining and opposing. His protest against the court is also a protest against the world. He refuses to take any personal responsibility for the modern world's confusion. But because he is the sole person to be arrested, he is the chosen one. He does not realize this because he does not listen to his inner consciousness. K. is like the accused in the legend "Before the Law".

K.'s arrest forces him to perceive the reality around him and also to think about his own mind and the validity of its existence. He is driven to the court more by his becoming aware of his invalid superficial principles. He runs away more and more from the court without understanding the meaning of the court's working till the prison chaplain enlightens him.

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