In order to live in this world there are boundaries and rules one must live by. Some have to do with the justice system and others fight the boundaries within church and family. In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, he criticizes the troubles of trying to conform to one of the sets of boundaries while maintaining his position in the others.
Like most authors, Kafka’s work seems to reflect his lifestyle and who he was. Throughout The Trial, K. is faced with many challenges including family, morals, and women. These are also things that Kafka faced in his life.
The novel is about a man named Josef K, who is framed of a crime he has no idea bout. He wakes up one day expecting to see the breakfast that his landlady brings everyday, but she is no where to be found. Men in suits, who seem to be detectives are sitting around his house. When he questions them, they refuse to answer any questions. This is the first sense of criticism Kafka has. It shows the corruption from the government , and how these people will just follow orders without questioning the reasoning behind it. At first it seems as if the criticism is towards the government, and how corrupt it is, but it then seems that he is criticizing the people within our society for letting the government control the masses with such ease. This can also be due to the way Kafka and many other jewish people were living at the time. When this book was written it was in the middle of World War II. A time where all jewish people had to fear for their
lives, wondering if they were going to be able to live without being captured. It is not only seen within other characters, but also within K. He considers himself to be a higher class individual and does not want to talk to the “lower class” police officer because he sees himself higher than them. Once again it seems as if Kafka is critiquing society, showing the difference of classes and how people interact in between them.
All of these examples show the institutions working in order to bring the individual back to society. By them informing K. that he has been arrested, but will not tell him why, makes K. become nervous and will do whatever it takes to find out what he has to do to get out of this situation. By threatening people with consequences, it keeps them from doing things that could get them kicked out of one of the “institutions.” The three institutions are church, state, and family. These three institutions are prevalent throughout Kafka’s literature. Like Kafka’s personality there is not much happiness to the institutions, because the basis of it is that one is determined to fail. All three of the institutions contradict each other making it impossible to reside within one. In order to be accepted within one of the institutions, one would have to break rules of the others. The institutions are used in order to keep individuals from straying from society. It seems as
if they work in unison, but in the smaller picture they are just contradictions of each other. K. is put through all of the institutions starting with state and family. Like anyone else when one gets arrested it does not only put affect you, it also puts a burden on your
family and all your loved ones. Even though K. has no idea what he is being charged with it is very unlikely that his family will believe him, or ever trust him again. It is hard for one to be able to keep one of these institutions happy while trying to please the other ones.
Under the category of family fall a very important part in Kafka and K’s life, women. Kafka was known to have many relationships when he was alive, even being engaged numerous times. K., also has countless relationships with women throughout the novel, some of them being a little strange. Throughout the book K. destroys and makes relationships, starting with Frau Grubach. She was his landlady who made him breakfast everyday,which was another thing that shook K. up, having to change his routine. He had a relationship with her that seemed to be friendly, until the detectives arrived. After the whole ordeal he goes to apologize to her for them using her to get to him. This is also goes to show how the institutions not only work together but also fight against each other. Throughout the book girls are trying to help K. in his prosecution. He has girls throwing themselves at him kissing him and risking their jobs just to help some random stranger that they just met. The reason the institutions do not work together is the fact that he has to choose between them. He can either choose the girl and have the possibility of being distracted throughout his prosecution. Or choose to get helped by them, but then
most likely just using them for the help and forgetting about them. Which he seems to do through out the novel.
In the end the final theme seems to be control over the masses. By using restrictions and consequences, the government is able to treat society and the masses as a giant game of chess, moving each piece like a pawn. It also becomes apparent that it is impossible to get away from these institutions and restrictions, they will either force the masses to conform to their restrictions. Or change their restrictions so they can find a new way to oppress the masses.
Getting towards the end of the novel it is pretty evident that K. will never be free again. On his thirty first birthday he is visited by two men. K. knows what they are their to do. He is dragged out to the street, hoping someone will help him. No one ever does and the two men eventually pull out a knife and kill K. The ending of the book is bittersweet. Although it fits the novel perfectly, because the reader never finds out what K. was accused. Or because the execution is just as abrupt as his accusation was. In the end Kafka critiques how corrupt and poorly run are the judicial systems. The only
problem with the ending of the book is all the sub plots that are left wide open. When Kafka wrote this book he never intended to publish it, but one of his friends ended up publishing it years after his death. This although gives the book a cliff hanger feel with many of the sub plots, makes it seems like maybe the book was not ready and should have never been published.
In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, he criticizes the troubles of trying to conform to one of the sets of boundaries while maintaining his position in the others. K struggles throughout the whole book trying to make everyone in his journey including himself happy. Trying to defend himself in a case in which he has no idea takes a major stress on himself and his family and friends. But the only way to be able to conform to one of the institutions is to break the rules of the others. Which in turn makes everyone pre- determined to fail