The Labyrinths of the Judiciary in Franz Kafka’s the Trial
“The Trial” by Franz Kafka is a novel of total meaningless living, wandering through court labyrinths and meaningless death. It was written in 1912 and published posthumously in 1925 by his friend Max Brod. Its manuscript was left unfinished and the author left his covenant to his friend to destroy it after his death, therefore, the novel was not intended for printing. However, despite the author’s last wish, his friend decided not to obey him and not fulfill it. His friend’s excuse was that Kafka wanted to destroy earlier manuscripts also, but under his strong influence and with much conviction, they were printed. In this novel, Franz Kafka describes the fate of an accused man in the world of institutions and his agony while he is wandering through a maze called bureaucracy.
An outstanding allegory of the absurd struggle of the individual to preserve his integrity in the machinery of insinuations and speculations that try to disrupt the personality. Imposition of fault for a case based on a series of circumstances that together create a dimension of planned, coordinated chaos. Through various psychological methods, with accusations and intimidations, an image of a hopeless state is created in which one must take responsibility. The influence of targeted public opinion becomes fatal in the calculation of that responsibility. Through this allegorical novel, Kafka criticizes the bureaucracy of the Austro-Hungarian government, which was immune to everything that is human and which identified a person with a form. He considered that the courts at that time were too politicized to allow the individual to defend, and similarly, such institutions did not make the right decisions. Some of the literary experts link the message of “The Trial” to the Jewish question: the question of guilt is determined according to the individual’s belonging to a particular group, nation or class. Through the character of Joseph K. it is seen that people, against their dignity, are courting the authorities in order to win in their favour.
Life is a process – a long trial in which we are all sentenced to death. Kafka, through an allegorical picture of the trial, presents to us with the meaninglessness of life, the absurdity of everyday life and the loss of the man in modern society. If Meursault in ‘The Stranger’ himself is to blame for not finding sense, if Vladimir and Estragon are judged for eternal waiting for Godo, here, Joseph K. can influence nothing with anything – everything is ultimately and finally: death comes.
The fact that the novel was left unfinished does not stop it being what it is: a reading that leads us through the labyrinths of the judiciary, much like Alice travels through the Wonderland, or perhaps it leads us through the labyrinth of one senseless life right before its more senseless end, like Dante through the nine circles of hell with Lucifer in the end. The characters in the novel are strange with unrealistic appearances. They are almost like spirits, placed in rooms that are nowhere to be found: with low ceilings, strange doors that lead to other more perishable rooms; with lattices or wooden partitions, overlapped with papers or someone’s clothes. These rooms are for temporary living which are offices on certain days, with countless corridors and with stairs that lead to the next maze where people wait indefinitely and endlessly until aging. The endless maze of the novel is precisely what the judiciary is nowadays: endless postponement, deceits, hiding, forgetting about the human and his ordinary life and the common problems he faces. These problems can neither be revealed nor defined and resolved.
Society is where man can not find himself; where there is no one to help; where man stops being human,but it becomes only one figure, one of the many unresolved cases in the process called ‘life’ where the end is inevitable such as stray dogs that if are not saved by somebody, they know what is awaiting them: death. ‘ Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.’ (Kafka, The Trial)This is the first sentence of the novel where we find out that Josef K. did nothing wrong as well as nothing good; however, he was sent a trial invitation for a trial against him, without any explanation. We do not find out what K is convicted of, neither at the beginning nor in the end.It happens on his thirtieth birthday, and the process lasts for a year without anything to change or illuminate. Finally, on his thirty-first birthday, the Court comes, ending the agony and executing him.
Kafka undoubtedly possessed extraordinary creative creativity, as a blend of literature, philosophy and law. His ingenuity, as his contemporaries and biographers write, was often overshadowed by his psychological fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia, which they claim to have the root for the conflicts related with his father and family misunderstandings. However, in such circumstances, his creative talent came to the fore in the most sincere way. Personal sadness, the knowledge of human life from the aspect of law practice, freedom as a legal-axiological component of life and the reflexive expression to translate it through a genius writer’s word, have contributed to Kafka’s work to leave a great stamp in world literature, but at the same time it represents a timely ‘barrister’s symbol’ of the individual’s struggle against bureaucracy and unfair justice.Here, Kafka writes about the corruption of bureaucracy, the alienation of man from society and the inability of the individual to change something in the context of current social developments.German professor Thomas Anz for Kafka says he is a remarkable poet of the absurd. But Kafka also gives a legalistic discourse to the absurd, through the struggle of the individual to keep his integrity and dignity vis-à-vis the arrogance and intrigue of the institutional centers of power. In this direction, Kafka speaks of deferring the values in the law and its practical application through the judiciary, for making judgments based not on evidence, but on the basis of the ‘need for a verdict’
According to Foucault, the first discourse present in The Trial is a literal representation of the modern, reformist movement. Discipline is at odds with pre-reformist practices and the interesting, simultaneous occurrence is the actual source of confusion and tension in Kafka’s novel. While the attic courts at once function according to the model of sovereignty and its rules of secrecy judicial arithmetic, and intercession, the narrative also incorporates strategies from a much more modern system, based on individualization, observation, and surveillance. In the case of The Trial, the reader witnesses the very moment of transition in of the formation momentarily function simultaneously. The second discourse present in The Trial emerge of prison as the form of punishment for every crime grew out of the development discipline in the 18th and 19th centuries. He looks at the development of highly refined forms of discipline, concerned with the smallest and precise aspects of person’s body. He suggests that discipline developed a new economy and politics for bodies. Modern institutions required that bodies must be individuated according to their tasks, as well as for training, observing, and control. Kafka’s work has a deeply felt, sensitively rendered analysis of institutions, not only showing how they oppress the bodies and minds of their inmates, but also exploring possibilities of resistance and escape. An enigmatic sentence from The Trial “Everything belongs to the Court” (Kafka, The Trial) suggests that Kafka’s court is a total institution. One must treat staff with deference signaled not only in words but in one’s bodily posture, and undergo gratuitous humiliations. In a mental institution or a monastery, or wherever one has to be “re-educated,” one must submit to having the history of one’s life, especially shameful episodes, generally known. One has little or no recourse against maltreatment by those with power over one. Much of this happens to Josef K. when he gets arrested. ( Yari, Afrougheh and Jangizah)
Certain contemporary theoreticians of criminal law, narrating the novel ‘The Trial’, point out and argue that the only concern in the criminal procedure is not the innocent being convicted at the end of the proceedings, but also not being drawn at all, without sufficient evidence and bases, in one criminal procedure, because the very conduct of the criminal procedure means a significant restriction on the freedom, the rights and interests of the citizens, even when the person is not in custody.Namely, Kafka points precisely to these deficiencies which are crucial in the conduct of the procedure, in which, as he says, often lawyers are ‘unrecognized’. Hence, to the procedure and the role of the defense in it, Kafka, as described in this novel, leaves the impression that the law only ‘suffers’ and that the court ‘does not recognize’ the lawyers, leading them to the level of ‘superintendents ‘. In that sense, the powerlessness of the individual and the powerlessness of the legal state before the power of bureaucratic and judicial voluntarism, Kafka directs to the courtrooms, in which the absurd struggle of the individual and his unrecognized defenders takes place.
I think that the absence of knowledge of the sentence by the convict is a motive that is common to Kafka’s works, including in the story ‘In the penal colony’.It is enough to recall only Josef K. who seeks his mistake starting from the morning of the detention until the end of the novel. Unlike the short story ‘In the penal colony’ where the cover-up of a mistake is necessary in order to maintain the apparatus of the law, in ‘The Trial’ this phenomenon is colored by a metaphysical dimension. All Kafka’s texts contain the moment of aporia, but the puzzle in this novel does not require dismissal because it would reduce the crime of a banal crime story where the culprit is seeking the punishment, or the innocent sustains a punishment for an unbecoming crime. This is more about an existential anxiety, which through the attitude towards the appliance of justice should speak about the general way in which the individual learns to deal with reality.
The idea of this work is the powerlessness of man as an individual to understand the principles and mechanisms of power, as well as the inability to resist it. Kafka raised his voice against the small people who sought the mercy of the great. Kafka somehow secretly threads absurdity of existence in this novel, which will later inspire Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre to lay the foundations of existentialism. Regarding the theme, it is the hell of human intellectual awareness in the fight against bureaucracy and the evil imposed by power.”We have to recognize the futility of trying to work with the world of the Court that simply will not relate to self’s faculties. Life is only a nightmare because there are such inscrutable forces beyond our control that no way of solution can protect the self from them. Annihilation is not a choice but a fact of alienation which has been left to us, whether we accept it or continue to struggle against it. The Trial represents a simultaneity in which disparate historical, disciplinary discourses collide a moment of rupture, exchange, and confrontation, only possible in that precise historical envelope from which the author spoke. It represents a singular, historical moment at the threshold of legal and disciplinary transformation, a moment that fluctuated between the archaic modalities of linguistic-based discipline and modern surveillance. Kafka challenges the idea that power is wielded by people or groups by way of episodic or sovereign acts of domination or coercion, seeing it instead as dispersed and pervasive.”
Injustice in the Book of Job and the Trial
Justice can be defined as just treatment or behavior, and it can also be compared to the word fairness. In both The Book of Job by Stephen Mitchell and The Trial by Franz Kafka, there is a lack of justice and fairness. Both books describe a man that is wrongfully accused of something they didn’t do because of a higher power. The difference between these two books is that they are from two different eras, where The Book of Job is from around the 6th century BC and demonstrates an ancient conception of justice and The Trial is from the early 1900’s and is a better example of a modern conception of justice. Though these books are very different in terms of the time they were created in, they both portray a similar conception of injustice that is, for someone to be accused of a crime that they didn’t commit, or they are not aware of.
Josef K is the main character in The Trial, Josef is essentially accused of a crime, and he is unable to prove to others that he is not guilty. He is generally stuck in a society that has fully accepted existentialism for their government. Throughout The Trial, Josef K. is making an attempt to free himself from this false accusation. He repeatedly tries to find out what he was being accused of and to try to prove he is innocent of these allegations, although this never seems to work out in Josef’s favor. Josef was supposedly scheduled for a trial, but was never told where to go and when to go, and when he finally met with anyone they either told him he needs to confess for a crime he didn’t do. In the society Josef K. is living in, it presents the typical ideologies of existentialism, where the court doesn’t have to present to Josef why he was being apprehended, and they don’t have to disclose many other details of the case. This type of society is in place because the government believes that the people don’t have to qualifications and are unable to handle take responsibility for the crimes they commit, but with this type of court system, it always seems to go in favor of the court system, not the defendant, like Josef K.
Throughout The Book of Job by Stephen Mitchell, Job is being tested on his morals by God and The Accuser. Although God knew that Job was the most honorable man, he allowed The Accuser to put Job through these hardships to prove that he had only the best on his side. It is evident, that these tests go against what God says he is trying to promote because they violate Job’s rights and they take away all that Job worked hard for. The Accuser took away Job’s land, animals, property, and family with God’s permission. Throughout the story God tries to prove that Job is devoted to him, but while trying to do that, he puts him through inhumane tests that desecrate his god given rights and deny him the justice he deserves.
When Job finally gives up because he had lost everything he ever had and was being physically hurt by The Accusers test. He curses God and says:
Oh only if God would hear me,
State his case against me, let me read his indictment.
I would carry it on my shoulder
Or wear it on my head like a crown.
I would justify the least of my actions;
I would stand before him like a prince (Mitchell 75).
From this interaction with Job and God, after Job specifically asked to know what he did wrong he still does not know. For Job not to know what he did wrong is an act of injustice itself, God displayed an act of injustice by not giving Job the entirety of his story and making Job believe he did something wrong. This is similar to when Josef K. is accused of the crime of which he does not know he committed. In the book, Joesef K. does not know what to do, this relates to Job, when he is continually punished for something he doesn’t know. Josef K. was informed about a trial, but was not aware of when it was and what to do when he was there, this is when Leni says
“Please don’t ask for names, but do stop making these mistakes of yours, stop being so unyielding, there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself from this court, you have to confess. So confess as soon as they give you the chance” (Kafka, 78). Basically Leni tells Josef K. that there is no way he can plead his case, this demonstrates the type of government that was prevalent in this time period, which was filled with a lack of representation and there was no law that stated a person was innocent until proven guilty.
When comparing the two books they are very similar in some aspects, even though they are from two different time periods. The Book of Job and The Trial both demonstrate a concept of justice that can be described as being of accused of crime, and they were not aware of the crime they were being charged. Also in both books, after being punished for the crime they were unaware of committing, both Josef K. and Job reached a point where they wanted to plead their case and try to prove themselves as not guilty. The only difference between the concepts in the book regards the endings, in The Trial, Josef K.never had a set trial and it seemed as if was prolonged throughout the entire book. At the end of the book Josef K. had barely had a chance to state his case, and he was sentenced to death in front of everyone in his town. In contrast to the ending of The Trial, Job was able to state his case to God, and God allowed Job to regain his earnings and live his life freely.
Both, The Trial and The Book of Job portray a similar concept, this shows when considering that each text was created in very different time periods, they are not very different in terms of injustice. Each protagonist experienced similar hardships and was treated with the same kind of disrespect. Therefore, Job and Josef K. are very similar in terms of lack of injustice and disregard for God-given rights.
The Atmosphere of Mystery in the Trial
While researching this novel I came across an excerpt, in which someone who was close to Franz Kafka, had managed to make Kafka mad by referring to Edgar Allen Poe’s work to have been written under the influence of alcohol. This presumably angered Kafka because that would denote all his work to the smallest form rather then for what it is; a gruesome form of mystery. Kafka had then said this about Poe: ‘ (Poe) was a poor devil who had no defenses against the world…. He wrote tales of mystery to make himself at home in the world.’ The way Kafka went out to describe the genre of mystery was by romantasing it in a way. At the very least, Kafka’s view of what the genre of mystery was varied drastically from what the rest of the world believed it to be; something that was very dark and obsessed with punishment. After coming across this quote, it led me to wonder, in what way could and individual believe that this form of writing; mystery, make someone ‘feel at home in the world’? However the mystery components in Kafka’s The Trial add to fundamentally the same environment. They are a piece of Kafka’s conjured up universe, woven into the most recognizable settings. Which not only resonate with Kafka but can make the average reader feel ‘at home’ in a world which is full of crime and unjustifiable crime at that.
In spite of the fact that The Trial was left in an incomplete state, Kafka tries to make up for this by offering a conclusion to the work with an emotional last scene. However even toward the end, Joseph K. is pondering where the justice system was or rather the lack of it’s presence within the arrest case of Joseph K. Throughout the novel despite having the physical manifestation of the justice system in the form of officials missing, it doesn’t hit the audience until the very last scene where K is about to be executed and up until that point he has yet to know where justice and law was. For a book that settled the wrongdoing and caught the criminal at the start, immense questions remain after the story’s end. Present irregularities in the plot and drafts of incomplete parts add to the atmosphere of mystery surrounding the last work, yet these scarcely take away from Kafka’s work as a whole. In the case of The Trial many speculate that Kafka intentionally leaves certain strings loose at the end, and fails to acknowledge some of the questions left up in the air. By looking at this work through the lense of simply mystery, are we in a sense missing the point all together which Kafka has intended to make with The Trial? We have no reason to not believe that Kafka view his novel in such a light.
In the very beginning of the novel the first scene that the readers are introduced with is when Joseph K. gets up one morning, he is visited by someone who he does not know, and someone who we as the readers dont know as well, who lets him know: ‘You can’t go out, you are under arrest.’ ‘So it appears. In any case, what for.’ ‘We are not authorized to tell you that’ This is the conversation that this man has with our lead, Joseph K. Normally in the genre of mystery the act of punishment, or arrest tends to be a concluding scene. But strangely, The Trial starts off with Joseph supposedly being arrested for a crime. Generic Mystery novels consist of simulating an atmosphere which provokes the readers to wonder who might be the offender or who it is we are looking for throughout the novel. Yet Kafka does the opposite of this in The Trial, by having the so called criminal known from the start of the novel. By having Joseph K. being announced as the ‘criminal’ and having him arrested, Kafka is able to create an atmosphere that challenges our perception of the mystery genre from the get go. But one thing we as the audience, as well as the main character are unsure of is the crime which they have been arrested for. This again is an inversion of how a mystery genre is set up. Usually the crime is what the audience is given to follow and it’s consequences, and towards the end it is finally revealed who or what caused those consequences, and crime. A third major difference we are given between traditional mystery tropes and what we are shown in The Trial is the way the so called criminal reacts to being caught. Traditionally criminals will do their very best to avoid being caught and avoid authority in general. But in the case of The Trail, Joseph K.’s first move is to confront the justice and legal system about his alleged wrongdoings.
As the story progresses many questions arise, yet none of these questions are fitting of a traditional mold set for mystery novels. Who are the people making the charges against Joseph K? What is the proof for his arrest? How will they tell if he is innocent or guilty? A glaring question that is out of the ordinary is seen from the very arrest of Joseph K. Despite allegedly being arrested we don’t see any authority figures take him to jail. So, because of the lack of action we as the audience begin to judge the significance of Joseph K’s very arrest. Kafka does everything conceivable to stress the quotidian characteristics of his story. He adamant on reminding the audience that ‘Joseph K lived in a nation with a lawful constitution’. Kafka puts and emphasis on the fact that despite being ‘arrested’ Joseph K went about mundane tasks as he would if he were not arrested. Joseph still goes to work, he still has interaction with family and friends, all of that has not come to a halt, which one would expect under given circumstances. Despite all of this being seemingly normal, there were aspects within the novel that seemed eery. Much of that coming from the way the law and justice system plays into the novel. Much of the strange factors of this can be seen through the environment and settings in which scenes play out. The very areas where they occur—in an attic, or a ladies room, or a bank— end up creating an atmosphere which audiences are not used to seeing matters of law take place in. By doing this Kafka is able to establish a world in which judgments in law take place within areas which generically crime would take place in. This creates a sort of back drop that is opposite to what readers are used to in the mystery genre.
This gives way to interpreting The Trial, as well as Kafka’s other works with a different perspective then we do with other novels supposedly in the same mystery genre. He takes Mystery to a greater degree. One in which all the traditional aspects of crime and mystery such as arrest, evidence, environment, and punishment not only are sustained in the world of the novel, but also breech into our world of reality. The way the story is presented not only phases the main character, Joseph K, but also us as the readers. Who live in a somewhat parallel world to that of The Trial. We presumably have blind faith in our legal systems, or are told we should. And we expect the justice system to know wrong from right. As is seen in the Trial when Joseph K. is somewhat laid back and acting casual despite being arrested because he has faith the justice system and the courts will know what is right and what is wrong. It is not far fetched to believe after all that Kafka beliefs mystery novels and genre to bleed into the world of reality and make its reader feel as if they have a place in that world, because in the end it is in fact implied that this trial is not only of Joseph K’s but our own.
The Trial by Franz Kafka. Novel Critique
The Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights ensures that any American citizen accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial; in other words, they must be informed of the crime they are accused of, and are given the opportunity to prove their innocence. Contrarily, in The Trial by Franz Kafka, the main character Josef K. wakes up one morning arrested under unnamed charges. He spends the entire novel not only attempting to identify the crime he is accused of, but proving that he is guiltless. The fictional society in The Trial is filled with corruption and is similar to a totalitarian government. The fraudulent regime inculcates K. to believe he is guilty, which leads to the loss of his sovereignty and transforms him into another defenseless subject of the system.
The fictional society that K. lives in has a government whose foundation is built upon rumors rather than proof. The system is described as one that “doesn’t seek out guilt among the general population, but … is attracted by guilt” (Kafka 8-9). Instead of seeking out true criminals, officials arrest those who have been accused of being guilty by other people, without any real evidence. This illogical process of finding culprits in the society is even more flawed after the government detains suspects. After K. is arrested and speaks to the inspector of his case, he still has “learn[ed] nothing about why he had been arrested and on whose orders” (Kafka 14-15) and is told not to spend his time attempting to prove his innocence. Throughout the story, K. is never informed of why he has been arrested. By the end of the novel he even questions “Where was the judge he’d never seen? Where was the high court he’d never reached?” (Kafka 231). Left in the dark, K. has no say or power in the result of his case, showing how corrupt the standards of the government are. The government has no limit to its authority, controlling every aspect of his case, and restricting K.’s right to a fair trial. By not informing K. of any information regarding his situation, the government’s regulations and system strongly resembles one of a totalitarian government.
As K.’s cluelessness and lack of knowledge about his conviction slowly persuade him that he is guilty, he loses his identity and becomes dominated by the society. Even though he initially believes he is “not guilty. It’s a mistake. How can any person in general be guilty? We’re all human after all, each and every one of us,” (Kafka 213) he is met with a rebuttal of “that’s how guilty people always talk” (Kafka 213). Despite no concrete evidence, K. is repeatedly told that he is guilty, and he eventually begins to accept it. He tells himself “if I’d behaved sensibly, nothing more would have happened, everything else would have been nipped in the bud” (Kafka 23). The corruption of the government, as well as the other subjects who have already been manipulated by the authorities, convince K. that he is guilty. He eventually becomes one in a crowd of people who are under the government’s control. In the first sentence of the novel, Kafka refers to the main character as Josef K. Yet, as Josef’s situation is revealed, Kafka refrains from giving him a full surname, referring to him as K. throughout the rest of the novel. This inhumanely reduces K. to an object, showing how the government’s standards and systematic processes strip him of his individuality. The main character is slowly brainwashed by the government and begins to doubt not only who he is, but his innocence as well.
The fictional society that Kafka presents in The Trial is one filled with corruption and bureaucratic standards, strikingly mirroring a totalitarian justice system. The main character’s confusion along with the Court’s nefarious and unprincipled restriction of his rights manifest the immorality of the society and its system. The standards which build the foundation of the fictional society affect the main character throughout the novel as he undergoes his unfair trial. Josef K. becomes another subject of the society as “K.,” and forfeits his autonomy, just as many others have, as he surrenders his fight for innocence. The rights presented to citizens in America by the Constitution, the same rights K. was refused, are there to prevent the government from being like the the fictional society presented in Kafka’s novel.
The Trials of Black Men, Tom Robinson and OJ Simpson and Society’s Decision Based on Race and Social Status of the Convicted
Tom Robinson and OJ Simpson are two black men who have both been taken to trial. They have many similarities that affected their court cases such as their race, social status, and verdict. Tom Robinson was accused of raping and beating up a white woman. OJ Simpson was accused of killing his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Tom Robinson went to trial for raping and assaulting a white woman named Mayella Ewell—a crime he didn’t commit. Atticus, Jem and Scout’s father, was Robinon’s lawyer, and he proved that Tom Robinson was not guilty of the crime. Everybody knew that he was innocent, and Tom’s boss could not recall any violent incidents that included Tom. Because he was a black man he was taken advantage of and made to be a scapegoat in the murder. OJ Simpson went to trial for killing his wife and her friend. He really couldn’t explain himself. Because he was black, he had no voice or authority and couldn’t explain himself. Even if he tried to explain himself, there was DNA evidence that shoed he was involved in the crime scene and proved that he was the murderer. There were also witnesses including the neighbors who heard the dog barking in an odd manner for a period of time, which made them think that there was something wrong. A woman also testified that the knife that OJ Simpson used in the murder was the knife she had given him before.
Tom Robinson had a low social status, which made it possible for Bob Ewell to take advantage of him and say he was the rapist. Because he had such a low social status, people believed that everything Tom said was a lie. When he was questioned as to why he ran away, Tom said it was because he was scared. On the other hand, OJ had a high social status, and he could pay for an expensive attorney to take the case, but even so it was not easy for him to get people to take his side. The media was even reluctant to put his case on television.
Tom Robinson was innocent, but due to his race and social status, the jury found him guilty and he was convicted of rape. He later tried to escape from jail but was shot 17 times and died. It’s still not clear whether OJ Simpson did commit the murder. Many people still believe that he is guilty, but the prosecution refused to prove its case.
OJ Simpson and Tom Robinson were both black men who were brought in for trial. Society accused Tom of raping a white woman, and after his testimony they still didn’t believe him. OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife and her friend, and after many witnesses came forward, he still testified that he didn’t do it and was ultimately let free.
The trial of Socrates
As a member of the jury for the trial of Socrates, I have concluded that Socrates is not guilty of corrupting the youth based on the arguments he has presented to me and my fellow jurors. The accusers that have brought Socrates to trial claim he is corrupting the minds of the youth and of believing in the supernatural of his own creation rather than the gods of the state. Socrates first argument is presented by a cross-examination against these charges through the interrogation of Meletus by asking him if he is such a bad influence on the youth, then what is it that has a good influence?
Meletus claims that Athens itself as a governing power has a positive influence on the youth with the exception of Socrates. Socrates then uses an analogy with horses by saying if it takes an expert to improve a horse, then surely it would be odd to think anyone could improve a person. This analogy gives a proper insight into how Athens in general isn’t necessarily influencing the youth in a good way, but in fact may even be a harmful influence due to the inexperience amongst its leaders and their thoughtless ideologies. Socrates on the other hand has more knowledge and insight into being mindful of one’s surroundings and existence on earth and this in turn gives a better approach into influencing the youth on their morals and ethics.
Meletus next claim is that like wicked people, Socrates intentionally harms those with which they live in contact, and that this is detrimental to society. Socrates refutes this by claiming if he hurts others he would be harming himself as a member of society and he is not foolish enough to want to hurt himself, but if he does cause harm it would be unintentional and for that reason should be instructed but not punished. This shows the kindness and rationality of Socrates in how he looked after the people both young and old and meant no harm but for them to simply have greater insight into the meaning of life. Socrates next accusation against him was that he did not believe in the gods sanctioned by the state, in his argument he suggests it would be impossible to believe in supernatural matters without believing in supernatural beings. His belief of a higher power allows the youth to question creation and life itself and may have even given their life meaning to move in a better direction.
Socrates risks his life for his philosophical ideologies before the jury and explains the only question to concern oneself with is whether one is acting justly or not. As a seeker of truth he further claims justice is priority over the considerations of life and death which are selfish. The idea of Socrates putting justice first allows the youth to realize the importance of protecting what’s right from wrong no matter the costs. Socrates’ wisdom is derived from his realization that he does not know what he does not know and the fact that he does not know what is in the afterlife allows him to not fear it, because a fear of death is claiming to know the unknowable and is a false idea. He puts justice, truth and perfecting the soul over wealth, honor, and selfishness. These qualities would allow the youth to achieve a better quality of life rather than corrupting them. Socrates has always been consistently just with his teachings and ideologies and I think he has benefited the youth immensely to better themselves through thought provoking ideas and to ultimately strive to become as intellectual as him.
the Harney vs. Sony Pictures Television Inc. Court Case: The Trial Verdict and the Case of Abuse of the Copyright Law
Harney v. Sony Pictures Television Inc., 41 Med.L.Rptr. 113.
Facts: In April, 2007, photographer Donald Harney took a picture of what appeared to be a father and daughter out at an event. Almost a full year later, in 2008, the couple in question became involved in a kidnapping case, and the daughter was abducted by her father. The story quickly became a media sensation, and given that it was a photo of both subjects, Harney’s image was used in media coverage of the kidnapping, for which Harney was paid licensing fees by multiple news networks. A television series was soon made to adapt the story of the abduction. Sony Pictures Television Inc. mimicked the photograph taken by Donald Harney in their made-for-TV movie to be used as a prop, although the details of Sony’s version were changed in a few ways– namely the use of an actor and child actress, the orientation of the girl’s hands, and the papers being held in the hand of the father figure.
Sony’s image appears in 42 seconds of the 90 minute film, depicted as a wanted poster and other such items. Furthermore, it appeared in 22 ads for the program for less than a second each. Harney, having not been contacted by Sony for any permission to recreate a similar image, subsequently filed suit, alleging that Sony’s use of his photograph without permission was a violation of federal copyright law. Sony fought the charges, arguing that no reasonable jury would consider their image a blatant theft of Harney’s work.
Issue or questions: The issue for this particular case is whether or not a party’s recreation of an image can be so blatantly attempting to duplicate it that the work is thereby theft of the original artist’s content. Specifically, it addresses Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution: the Patent and Copyright Clause.
Decision or holding: The First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled that no “substantial similarity” could be found between Sony Television Pictures’ image and the photograph originally taken by Donald Harney, ruling in favor of Sony. The decision dissected the notion of “substantial similarity,” a term used in reference to whether or not an image has been essentially stolen in how closely it was recreated. Since the image Harney originally created was used as a wanted poster, Harney argued that the similarity of Sony’s image (recreated with the actors playing this version’s characters) was an implicit attempt to copy Harney’s own image. The jury agreed that there were many primary features of the image that were similar, including the clothing, age / appearance, and pose in which the pair was captured. There were numerous smaller details that were considered different, though, including the backdrop of the image being different, the content in the male character’s hand being illegible in Sony’s image, and many more features which were considered for more plentiful than the things they shared in common. These images that they shared, furthermore, were considered “non-copyrightable.” The court agreed that it is permissible to mimic the non-copyrightable elements of a copyrighted work, and that if two works share the same non-copyrightable elements, then there is no infringement. Via Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution, such mimics are considered transformative and deemed fair use. While it was agreed upon by the jury that Harney owned a copyright within his own photograph, and the Sony had copied that photograph, they had only copied the bare-minimum needed to recreate the concept of it– something which is non-copyrightable.
Rule of Law: The court referenced precedent from cases such as Warner Bros. Inc. v. Am. Broad. Cos., 720 F.2d 231, 240 (2d Cir.1983), in which a character that looked similar to Superman (created by Warner Brother’s subsidiary content creator DC Comics) was created as a deliberate copy by an ABC production. That particular case demanded a similar level of substantial similarity that court said, once again, this case couldn’t be awarded to in Harney’s favor.
The Trial Analysis: The political, juridical and philosophical interpretations.
The Trial is the most well-known novel of Franz Kafka, published in Berlin in 1926. The original manuscripts were collected and prepared fo publishing by Max Brod, Kafka’s closest friend, two years after the author’s death. Brod says that the manuscript didn’t have a title, but Kafka always referred it as ‘The Trial’. Kafka considered this book unfinished, even though the last chapter was already written. Kafka thought that he needed to add some more facets to the mysterious trial, however Brod says that if he didn’t know that Kafka wanted to continue this work, he wouldn’t be able to realise the book was not finished.
The novel tells the story of a banker, who one days gets arrested by two police for a crime that isn’t told to him or to the reader. The unusual arrest for unnamed charges leaves the ill-fortuned Joseph K confused and lost in the labyrinths of the juridical system. Desperate and overwhelmed, he imagines scenarios and tricks that eventually lead him to live the legal nightmare and the absurdity of life. Not knowing anymore whom to trust, he compiles his own ‘defense’ and in which he accepts the crime and begs for forgiveness, signing so his punishment and eventually his execution. In the last chapter, Joseph K is killed ‘like a dog’, stabbed by the two guards who first arrested him.
In the political aspect, the citizen is charged for something that he never did. In the end he is not charged according to the rules, but he only needs to present himself in the court room and ends killed ‘like a dog’ not even knowing his charge, never having seen the judge. This is a citizen of any unquestionably authoritarian country. In the context of the Habsburg Monarchy, where Kafka’s novels often take place, maybe every citizen feels guilty in front of the law, guilty for something that no one could tell. In this case, The Trial can be argued as a critique of the bureaucracy and the overall political and social situation in the Monarchy. According to this political interpretation, the Trial is a prophetic roman, that came into life with the horrors of the Second World War. Millions of people were killed tragically like Joseph K, and Joseph K is an early genius representative of that time, when the human rights were formally written, but never executed.
Kafka has always been fascinated by the complexity and paradoxes of law. In the juridical aspect, law is created for the common good of the society, and therefore it must be respected, regardless of its understanding or knowledge of it. This theory is shown in Kafka’s parable ‘Before the Law’. Before the Law tells the story of a man who wants to understand and have access to the law, but he was given a challenge by the gatekeeper to access the law. The man eventually gets old trying to access the law, and before he dies he asks the gatekeeper one more time if he can enter the door. The gatekeeper answers that that door was just made for the man and since the man is now dying, the door (and entrance to the law) would be now closed. In other words, this can be called ‘the death gate’; which is a paradox why would the door to the court be the death gate? It is the law that brings the man there and again the law that doesn’t allow him to approach it. Joseph K’s last thoughts before death are: ‘Where was the judge he’d never seen? Where was the high court he had never reached?’ Kafka suggests that the law is abstract and being inaccessible, people who are subject to it do not even know its fundamentals, therefore people are obeyed to something they don’t understand, just like Joseph K in the Trial. As a critique to the juridical system, Kafka suggests that the system does not function according to the human logic; instead the system is controlled by the strongest. Kafka clearly states: ‘The logic cannot be refuted, but someone who wants to live will not resist it.’ The system is therefore such that one is condemned to be guilty.
In the philosophical level, Kafka also presents the story of every man as an heir of the original sin. The man was cast out of paradise and accused of having sinned against the original law, the first law. In this world, man is suffering the consequences of the original sin. Joseph K does not accept this, he tried to defend himself that he is not a believer, or has forgotten the essence. At this point, Josef K. loses sense of reality; he doesn’t even know any longer if he is in prison or free. What started as a drama of suspicion, ended as a drama of human destiny. At the end of the novel, everything ends like it never happened before. The absurdity in the human life continues to exist. Everything happens in a city where the idea of innocence is murdered; ‘He must have done something; therefore, he is being arrested’. The Trial develops a range of existentialist themes, especially guilt. The main existentialist concept is that everyone’s is responsible for their own choices and honest choices are not always the best choices. It is therefore impossible for Joseph K not to feel guilty for his end, because maybe he didn’t make the right decisions and did not fulfil his life’s potentials. In this point of view, K. can be seen an anti-hero who makes ‘bad choices’; ceases to defend himself, surrenders and accepts his ill-fate. The actions of Joseph K are absurd and in the last chapter paradoxes and the absurd take over. He knows that he is going towards execution, but he doesn’t not try to save himself, and he ceases to say he is innocent. Absurdism, much adhered by existentialist, suggests that the reason for human life has no real meaning. Joseph K just accepts his fate passively, he has lost his faith and the meaning of life, and he has become as one with his captors, as they symbolically walk together as one towards the place of execution. The absurd death penalty is associated with an even more tragic death. Joseph K constantly looks out of the windows; most of them are closed in this tragic moment. Only one window is open, and a weak man can be seen; ‘Who was that? A friend? A good person? Somebody who wanted to help?’. These last thoughts show the loneliness before death, and finally the tragedy culminates as Joseph K feels that his body would survive, instead of his spirit. Symbolically, the society survives as a body without a soul.
The tragic fate of Joseph K is not only fantasy; everyday people are wrongfully convinced, and throughout all the history innocent lives are taken without any reason. The Trial is a masterpiece because it makes the readers reflect about our destiny, meaning of life, the way we live, justice and liberty. Kafka has masterfully combined these themes in a powerful story of a normal citizen like any of us living in ‘a normal state where the rule of law is strong’.
The Trial’s Account of Inevitable Failure and Death
In The Trial, Franz Kafka tells the story of Joseph K., a man under persecution of the law. The novel begins with the arrest of K., which inducts him into a seemingly bizarre legal system. The arrest proves peculiar, as K. is never told what he is accused of and is not detained to a jail. In the following months, the case continues to reveal strange aspects of the bureaucracy that controls K.’s trial. For an entire year, K. is consumed by the trial and makes efforts to fight his case and obtain information about the legal system. Ultimately, the fight is ended through his execution with most questions left unanswered. This leaves one to wonder what Kafka intended The Trial to mean in a larger sense. One interpretation may suggest that Kafka conveys a message of the meaning of life, in that one does not exist. K.’s actions and experiences during the trial illustrate that life is meaningless and to continuously fight this idea and search for a substantial purpose is futile. Despite efforts to fight this conclusion, humans are all inevitably destined to failure. Accordingly, Kafka uses K.’s character to illustrate how one should not live, given this view. A central aspect of The Trial is K.’s persistence and obsession regarding the case. From the start, K. goes through the trial with a combative attitude, as he tries to fight against the Law and obtain information. Beginning with the arrest, K. assertively questions officials about his charges, and continues to search for answers as the case progresses. By the time the first interrogation is scheduled, K. seems prepared for battle. Prior to this event K. decides that, “The case was getting under way and he must fight it” (32). Upon arrival at the interrogation, K. takes the liberty to bestow a long speech that essentially criticizes the legal system by referring to his experience as “representative of a misguided policy which is being directed against many other people” (42). Before leaving the court however, the examining magistrate in charge of the meetings tells K. he has eliminated the normal advantages that a defendant would be allowed. In this instance, K.’s efforts to fight against the system prove useless. Following the interrogation K. grows increasingly paranoid. Although he is not detained or required to attend regular hearings, K. seems obsessed with fighting the law. Even during work at the Bank, K. is distracted as “the thought of the case never [leaves] him now” (113). Evidence of his paranoia, he goes so far as to plan a statement that would account for his entire life and serve in his defense. K. suggests feeling as though his whole life is on trial, although he has received no evidence to support such an idea. It becomes apparent he feels consumed by the case and trapped within the legal system. At one point, K. describes his recent pattern of spending time by the window, looking outside. While seemingly insignificant, it may be symbolic of K.’s choice to remain on the “inside” of the system feeling oppressed, while he still has the ability to remain freely on the “outside”. Although K. obsesses over the case, there is no law in place that prevents his freedom to continue with his daily business outside the imaginary confines of the trial. However, K spends time attempting to defend himself, and despite this fixation, makes no progress. Perhaps Kafka means to convey the idea that it is pointless to continuously evaluate and revaluate troublesome aspects of life, as this is a waste of time. K. may serve as an example of how not to live in that his paranoia only led to feelings of entrapment, but ultimately no progress. In the meantime he misses out on life outside of his case. Another main aspect of The Trial is the peculiar bureaucracy with which K. interacts. For the most part, the legal forces that have power remain inaccessible. The officials, such as the warden in K.’s arrest, talk of their superiors, but whom these people are is never revealed. This faceless system makes it difficult for K. to obtain information that could be helpful. In addition, there are aspects to the legal system that make advancement seem impossible. A fellow defendant, Block, tells K. that it is difficult to see the progress of an ongoing case. In fact, the legal system is revealed to show that defendants have very little control in the outcome of their trials. Although not yet resigned to this conclusion, K. at one point entertains, “only cases predestined from the start to succeed came to a good end, which they would have reached in any event without your help, while every other one of the others was doomed to fail in spite of all your maneuvers” (122). Therefore, despite all efforts, the fate of the trial is out of his hands. Logically, if it is impossible to control the case among an unreachable bureaucracy, all efforts to do so are useless, and time could be better spent. Ultimately, Kafka develops a legal structure that renders K and other defendants powerless. This system may serve to parallel the human inability to control many aspects of life, particularly the ultimate outcome. In addition to the inaccessible bureaucracy, K.’s interaction with the priest provides further insight into The Trial’s meaning. The priest, who serves the Court as a prison chaplain, tells K. the story of a man who spends his life waiting to gain “admittance to the Law” (213). A doorkeeper stands by, but does not allow the man to enter. The man waits at the door for the rest of his life, but is ultimately never admitted. Although never allowed admittance, the man is told that, “the door was intended for you” (215). Thus, there is no reason for him to be denied entrance, which further emphasizes his lack of control in the situation. As the priest explains, it is important to understand the man is not forced to wait there at any point. The man could simply leave to live the remainder of his life in the country, as he has no control over his inevitable failure, and in turn wastes valuable time. Similarly, K. voluntarily spends his life focused on the law, but regardless his efforts have no effect on the ultimate outcome. Before leaving the cathedral, K. is confused as to why the priest seems indifferent towards his actions. The priest then explains that he too is part of the court, and the court does not want anything from him. Referring to the court, he tells K. that it “receives you when you come and it dismisses you when you go” (222). The legal system is not formed to require his efforts, and on the whole his actions are inconsequential. A possible message conveys that it does not matter what one does in an attempt to change the outcome of life. Just as the court is not built to allow for human interference, all life ends the same regardless, and there is no need to “interfere” in an attempt to change this. Suppose Kafka believes there is no meaning to life. Thus, life is not built to allow for a search to find one. There is no need to spend abundant time, as the efforts will always end in failure, since no purpose exists.For the year after his arrest, K. continues to fight and contemplate his case. Then, on the night before his birthday, he is killed. Two men enter his room and take him to a quarry where one of them stabs him in the heart, a seemingly painful death. While walking outside, K. does not fight to get away after he realizes, “[the] futilities of resistance” (225). Thus, it is not until this point, after an entire year, that K. finally relinquishes efforts to fight back. Prior to the stabbing, K. sees the figure of a person in the distance. This prompts many questions about who the figure is, if they are to help him, and where the judge has been. K. never finds the answers to any of his questions, nor does he discover what crime he is accused of. The death is significant in that it shows K. is doomed to be killed right from the start. As previously argued, his efforts in the case were ineffective, so there was no way to control the final outcome. The final execution is perhaps most essential to Kafka’s message in that it may highlight how, after a meaningless life, everyone is destined to death. K. never understands the meaning of his trial and even if he had, death was inevitable. Perhaps life has no meaning, and to spend countless hours pondering this topic is a waste of time. Exemplifying resistance in life is also useless as failure is inevitable since everyone is destined to die regardless. Overall, it is possible to view The Trial as a message to reveal the meaning of life. One may argue Kafka decides there is no meaning, and everyone is destined to failure from the start, as a greater purpose cannot be found. Although K. works on his case to the point of obsession, no progress is made. Upon his death, he has not found answers to any questions regarding the case and was unable to prove his innocence. Kafka may express the idea that failure is inevitable despite efforts of resistance. One cannot fight against the ultimate outcome to life as everyone eventually dies. While Kafka’s personal experiences may have led him to this rather depressing conclusion about life, K. perhaps serves as an example of how a person should not live, given this deduction. Never imprisoned, K. feels compelled to obsess over the case and fight back with every effort possible. It is not until right before his death he realizes the struggle is useless. While it is impossible to control ultimate doom, one may recognize it is important to choose to go about life, without being consumed by an inability to find meaning. Perhaps in The Trial, Kafka communicates his belief that life is empty of meaning, always to end in death and failure to discover a greater purpose. Therefore it is important to do something with life while that is still possible – to spend days actually living is a much better use of time then to feel trapped in the constant burden of the inevitable.
The Trial on Trial
Since its original date of publication in 1925, Franz Kafka’s The Trial has resisted interpretation. At first glance, the novel’s seemingly simple and serial sequence of events poses no problem for the reader. Though the incidents that involve Joseph K. are themselves particularly odd and almost fantastic, the reader is able to follow. However, in the second to last chapter of the novel, the reader encounters an utterly confounding story about one man’s entrance to “the Law.” The chapter, and the story contained therein, poses a problem for one who wishes to ask ‘what is The Trial about?’ Though it seems reasonable to be able to extrapolate the “bigger meaning” of the novel itself from a story contained within, both portions of the novel resist an analysis that results in a clear-cut conclusion. The story “Before the Law,” the text for the discussion between the priest and K. in the chapter “In the Cathedral,” is open to a wide-range of interpretations and when confronted with this tale, the reader and K. become frustrated at the lack of a solid, logical end. This experience, however, is not at all isolated to this particular chapter; within The Trial, there is a systematic denial of definite, unambiguous conclusions. Throughout the novel, the reader actively tries to come to a variety of conclusions concerning the “meaning” of “Before the Law” and K.’s trial while seeking an illuminating connection between the two. Ultimately, however, Kafka’s tale leaves him without anything concrete and, as a result, without a solid interpretation. “Before the Law” frustrates the reader not because it is particularly complicated, but because it seems at once to be full of contradiction and paradox but, after some examination, there seem to be no inconsistencies present. Though it comes as a rather unsatisfying conclusion, “Before the Law’ serves very well to sum up the problems readers associate with The Trial; there is no rhyme, reason, or calculable projection of the end to K.’s judicial procedures, and, in the end, the importance of his innocence or guilt is completely suspended. Many of the problems associated with interpretations of The Trial stem from the translation of the title of the work itself. The German title is Der Prozess, for the intuitive English reader, “the process.” The differentiation between the two terms “trial” and “process” speaks directly to the difficulty of understanding inherent in the novel. The trial, according to the nuanced English word, indicates both a judicial process, that is, evidence discovery, statements by parties, and moderation by a judge, and finally an absolute judgment at the end of such a process. As one can see, there appears a stark contrast between the process itself and that which one expects to come at the end of it, a judgment. It is this very disconnect between what is provided to the reader and what the reader intuitively expects that exacerbates the problems of The Trial. Though it is (to say the least) odd to find courtrooms and stages within apartment complexes and nymphomaniac women hounding defendants, the reader can handle it, and though these events are very strange, they are not deal breakers. What really bothers the reader is the lack of a decision, the conspicuous absence of any “definites” that point to K.’s acquittal (or even his innocence or guilt). K.’s acquittal seems, after speaking to Titorelli, to be nearly impossible to achieve. According to the painter, there are three ways in which one may progress through the court system; acquittal, though the most desired outcome, is a historic anomaly. The painter says that K.’s innocence, however, should ensure his acquittal and that the judges need to see nothing more than evidence thereof. K., however, says that this is a contradiction; K.’s innocence seems (at least to him) to be entirely evident and he has yet to be acquitted. Furthermore, prior to the discussion of the acquittal, the painter spoke at length as to how one may influence judges in order to achieve a favorable verdict. “These contradictions can be easily explained,” the painter replies. “We’re talking about two different things here, what the Law says, and what I’ve experienced personally; you mustn’t confuse the two.” (153) Though it seems true that there isn’t a contradiction present here per se, the reader does detect something a little unsettling; the Law, apparently, is not always followed – but who is the Law? Is it just those gigantic, lengthy, complicated tomes that contain all the court precedents of the past hundred years, or is the Law the people who effect rulings and hold court? In much the same way as K. cannot solidly grasp the ethereal nature of the court system, the reader cannot fully conclude who, or what, it is that strictly composes the Law. This lack of a resolution causes the shock associated with K.’s execution at the end of the novel, and though it is a type of “final judgment,” it does not follow from any easily discernable methods of justice. For, in The Trial, there truly is no such thing as justice; the reader does not encounter notions of traditional, or at least rational, legal justification anywhere within the text. The reader’s frustration inevitably comes to a head in the second to last chapter, “In the Cathedral.” At the point just before the introduction of the story “Before the Law,” the reader is aware that the novel is near its end. Up until this point, the reader has not been presented with anything remotely resembling a definite decision about K. and his status qua defendant; surely, the reader assures himself, there must come some sort of denouement that will make clear exactly what is occurring in this book. Unfortunately, the story that seems at once to explain the contents of The Trial serves only to perpetuate the ambiguous qualities of the novel itself. The story “Before the Law” concerns a man’s attempt at entry into “the law.” The story, however, never commits itself to any particulars concerning who is to blame for the man’s inability to enter, and furthermore, the reader is never told what “the law” is. It seems that the identity of “the law” is perfectly obvious, but keeping in line with the differing translations of “der prozess,” “the law” does not necessarily imply justice and definite decision. “The law,” then, is perhaps just a process that has no ultimate (party beneficial or otherwise) conclusion, much like the man’s experience in his attempts to gain entrance. As the discussion between the priest and K. shows, there are many ways to interpret the story. At first, K. is convinced that the man was deceived – “the doorkeeper conveyed the crucial information only when it could no longer be of use to the man.” (217) The priest, however, shows that the doorkeeper in fact did not deceive, but only served his duty by answering the questions that he could. In order for the doorkeeper to have deceived the man, the priest says, a contradiction must arise from “the two important statements” given by the doorkeeper; “’that he can’t grant him admittance now’; and the other: ‘this entrance was meant solely for you.’” (217). To the reader (and to K.), however, this does not seem satisfactory – both parties still think that the doorkeeper withheld important information which could have at once possibly provided the man with entrance into the law, or dissuaded him from wasting his life waiting for the opportunity to enter. The priest goes on to discuss other opinions of the story; that the doorkeeper is actually the one deceived and that he is subordinate to the man, or that both are in fact deceived. The priest, however, does not ever commit to one interpretation of the story; he is merely “pointing out the various opinions that exist on the matter.” (218). He is quick to warn K. however, that he “mustn’t pay too much attention to opinions,” which, as the reader must surely feel, is a particularly out of place warning. Why discuss the opinions at all if K. should not pay attention to them? Throughout the discussion, however, the priest does provide two statements which are free of bias, that is, they do not tend to support any distinct interpretation of the text as to whether it was the doorkeeper or the man who was the one deceived. First, the priest states that “the commentators tell us: the correct understanding of a matter and misunderstanding the matter are not mutually exclusive.” (219) This statement goes, unfortunately, untouched by K. throughout the rest of the conversation, and though at first glance it seems to propose a contradiction, or at least a paradox, it is actually quite helpful in unpacking the story and The Trial as a whole. The discussion between the priest and K. that follows the story is based off of the assumption that one person (most likely the man, potentially the doorkeeper) is being deceived. Though perhaps adequately explained away by the priest after K.’s initial reaction to the story, the idea of deception generates the ensuing conversation. The notion of deception implies a deceiver and one who is deceived; K. thinks it is the man who is deceived by the doorkeeper, while the priest proposes arguments in favor of the opposite. Both interpretations seem viable, but the real question is not who is deceived, but if there is at all any deception present in the story. What at first seem to be contradictions to the reader and K., such as “correct understanding and misunderstanding not being mutually exclusive,” are, in fact, not contradictions at all. Instead of the man or the doorkeeper, it is the reader who is being deceived by the proposition of statements that initially seem to be negations. At first, a contradiction is welcoming, for it brings with it a definite “one or the other” quality. Kafka, however, keeping in line with the perplexing nature of the court system that pervades the rest of the novel, systematically unveils the ambiguous nature of the ensuing discussion and the story itself. To begin discussing the first of the “contradictions,” it is best to define the words that carry the most significance, which in this case are “correct” and “misunderstanding.” “Correct” implies an objective standard in which there is some matter X, and there is a way to understand it Y that everyone (either by consensus or by mandate from, say a judicial proceeding?) treats as absolutely unalterably right. “Misunderstanding,” however, is subjective – one can misunderstand matter X in a variety of ways. Misunderstanding, however, does not directly imply incorrectness; it just means that one did not understand matter X in the usual way. Perhaps even further, one can perceive matter X completely backwards and find himself in a paradox, but this does not absolutely rule out that understanding matter X backwards or differently than the norm means one’s understanding is incorrect (re. the opposite of correct and thusly mutually exclusive). In addition there seems to be a difference between the parts of speech of “the correct understanding” and “misunderstanding;” though the first appears to be a noun (because of the word ‘the’), the second phrase could be either a noun or a verb, that is, the process of misunderstanding. K., in his discussion with the priest, is engaged in a process of understanding (or, misunderstanding) the story – however, due to the sheer number of viable interpretations available it seems as if there is no such thing as “the correct understanding.” Or perhaps, even further than that, all interpretations of the story are “the correct understanding” even if they flow from an obfuscation of the facts of the story. In this way it seems that “Before the Law” does not resist interpretation whatsoever, for it provides fertile ground for a myriad of analyses! The effect, however, is a reflection of the problem persistent throughout the rest of the novel. If every understanding is viable, then there is no ‘this is wrong, and this is right,’ and so, the “correct” understanding can result from an utter misunderstanding of the text. The second statement made by the priest is one that concerns truth and necessity. After discussing the final interpretation of the story, that it is impossible to pass judgment of any kind on the actions of the doorkeeper in his capacity as servant of “the law,” K. declares that in order to accept that particular opinion, one must consider everything that the doorkeeper said was in fact true. The priest responds “No…you don’t have to consider everything true, you just have to consider it necessary.” (223). K., clearly despondent, replies that it is “a depressing opinion… Lies are made into a universal system.” (223) The distinction made between “truth” and “necessity” is unpleasant as it leaves the reader with a third option that invades the generally accepted true/false dichotomy: not false. In the “Before the Law” story, the doorkeeper does not provide the man with all information relevant to the events that are currently taking place or could take place in the story. In fact, he seems to give only half of what would be pertinent to the man; that “you cannot enter now” could be followed up with either “but you can in five minutes or time X” or, even worse, “and you cannot enter ever in the future.” These are possible additions to the initial statement, and they could be useful to the man – but the doorkeeper does not utter them. Does that make him a liar, that is, a disseminator of falsities? Or is he telling the truth, but leaving something out – and in neglecting to say something, is that lying? Unfortunately, there is no way to arrive at either extreme of truth, and therefore, the initial doorkeeper statement must be this third thing – not false. Once again, there is no definite answer that one can construct with regards to the doorkeeper’s statements to the man waiting to enter the law – K., and the priest, cannot even agree on what should seem to be an easy question; whether or not the doorkeeper is lying. There are no concrete conclusions because, as K. says, “lies are made into a universal system;” there is no way to detect that which is definitely true or false using evidentiary support because every facet of the story generates multiple viable interpretations. The doorkeeper, as the priest explains to K., must have contradicted himself in his two important statements in order for him to have made, oddly enough, a contradiction and, therefore, deceived the man. The two statements given by the doorkeeper, “that he can’t grant him admittance now,” and “this entrance was meant solely for you [the man],” at first seem incongruous for it doesn’t seem to make sense that an entrance made for just one person would also be eternally closed to him. If in fact a contradiction did arise from these statements then it would be clear that the doorkeeper, whether intentionally or not, deceived the man. It is, however, not that clear, for the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance to the man “now.” The implication that arises from this statement is that the man, though denied admittance at that time, will, at a later date, be granted admittance. The fact that he is not eventually granted admittance is troubling and seems to, once again, speak to the indefinite nature of what the doorkeeper says. The second statement uttered by the doorkeeper concerns those properties that are attributed to the entrance. The doorkeeper states at the end of the story that ‘the entrance was meant solely for [the man].’ When the reader is initially met with this declaration, he feels slight anger at the fact that this information has been withheld from the man. Even worse, the reader cannot understand why, when the entrance was meant for the man, that he was never admitted; it seems it is impossible to decipher the reasons (if there are any?) as to why the man was never granted admission. There is, however, something very clear about the conversation that takes place between the doorkeeper and the man; when the man asks the doorkeeper why no one else has ever requested admittance to “the law,” the doorkeeper does not actually answer his question. Because of his answer, we assume that the man was asking about this entrance and why no one else ever came by to ask to be let in, and the reader is met with a potentially sufficient answer in that this particular entrance was meant only for this particular man. Here, yet again, the reader is provided with a “non-false;” it is not false that the entrance was solely for the man because the readers of the novel have no evidence to the contrary, but it does not necessarily seem true either, for the man was never admitted. Perhaps the doorkeeper, in keeping in line with leaving out the potential last half of his previous sentence, forgot to finish this last statement – that, perhaps, the entrance was meant only to test the man, or that this entrance was meant solely for the man to wait by for an eternity. These possibilities are extrapolations and not supported individually by the text of the story, but their potential applicability serves only to show that “Before the Law” is a microcosm of the systematic lack of definites that pervades the rest of the novel. Even further, it is possible that the second important piece of information that the doorkeeper bestows upon the man comes only as a result of the man’s attendance to the law for so many years. It is feasible to imagine that, at the beginning of the events within the tale, the man was in fact given all the information that the doorkeeper could have told him. From there, it took the apparent commitment of the man to sit and stay by the entrance to show that he was ready to enter “the law,” and perhaps he even did. In keeping with the erratic, unreasonable themes of the rest of The Trial, in which the courts seem to be a corrupt, illogical sort of system, “the law” in the story could be simply the mirror of the frustrating process in which K. finds himself throughout the novel. The man was put on a sort of trial without him even being aware of such, and after showing that he was committed to the law, he was finally disallowed access; a very unexpected result, but once again, a result in line with the unpredictable and surprising nature of “the law,” the doorkeeper, and the court system of the novel. Another question worth asking is what would have happened if the man had simply ignored the doorkeeper and entered through his own volition. The doorkeeper gives the very last words of the story and, after he says that the entrance was meant solely for the man, he declares “I’m going to go and shut it now.” (217) Now, it seems, that the entrance was always open but the man was intimidated by the doorkeeper; perhaps this was the “trial” by which the man was to be judged worthy to achieve “the law.” Since the story ends without the man replying to the doorkeeper’s statement, the reader must assume that the man, ultimately, does not achieve his goal. The differentiation between the doorkeeper’s presence at the gate and the (apparently) physically open entrance begs more questions as to whether or not the doorkeeper was lying to the man in telling him that he could not enter. Nothing about the physicality of the opening to “the law” has seemed to have changed throughout the story and therefore, since the man seemingly could have entered at any time he wished, whatever the doorkeeper had said is utterly irrelevant. But once again, though the presence of the doorkeeper and the physical opening of the gate are not contradictions or mutually exclusive, there is nothing definite about the situation that would allow K. or the reader to arrive at a specific conclusion. Though each facet of the novel seems to resist a thorough and reasonable understanding, reading The Trial in light of the story “Before the Law” helps to unpack some of the themes present within the larger text. K.’s interaction with the court system is so confusing and exasperating because nowhere is there an iota of logic – there quite simply doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why K. is on trial and how he may prove his innocence through the process. “Before the Law” sparks so many interpretations that it seems any understanding (even an arguable misunderstanding, as in the case of K.’s initial analysis) is feasible and as a result, there is no notion of an objective correct or incorrect way to resolve the problem. Kafka systematically plants passages within the text that at first seem to propose contradictions but, after examination, the reader discovers that there is no inconsistency; there is only myriad interpretation. There are no definites discernable within “Before the Law” and The Trial in general; no definitely wrong or correct interpretations and, as a result, no definite conclusions about K.’s innocence, the man’s entry into “the law,” and the doorkeeper’s deception. ReferencesKafka, Franz. The Trial. Schocken Books: New York, 1998.