Legal Injustice in “The Trial” Novel by Franz Kafka Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

The plot of The Trial, a novel written by Franz Kafka, revolves around a person, who was unlucky enough to get accused of an unknown crime and involved in a year-long hopeless lawsuit. The protagonist has to face all the horrors and injustice of the legal system. In the novel, Kafka demonstrates his disapproval of the tyranny of legal system and government in general.

The Trial presents a story of Joseph K., a bank officer, who suddenly gets arrested by the members of a mysterious organization for an unknown crime right on his thirtieth birthday. However, he is not kept somewhere but is let free to do his daily duties.

On Sunday, he receives the address of the office where a hearing will take place, but the time is not established. At the address, he finds a building with a room with a great number of people. Confused, still not knowing what his crime was, Joseph gives a speech addressed to the judge and the people present, in which he criticizes the law process, expresses his concern about its unjust nature, and complains on the agents, who had previously arrested him. Silence comes as a response. Later, Joseph sees the agents flogged because of his complaints, and his protests against this unjust deed are not to be heard.

Consulting a lawyer is a little help for K., for the lawyer merely tells him a lot about hopeless cases. The same things are described by Block, an unsuccessful man, who has already spent five years in dealing with his legal problems. Joseph starts having troubles with his work since the lawsuit consumes all his time.

One day, an important Italian client arrived at the bank, and K. was asked to show him cultural sites. They arrange a meeting in a cathedral, but the client does not show up. Instead, Joseph talks to the local priest. The latter tells him a parable, Before the Law, which was published separately, previously to The Trial. The plot involves a man, who keeps trying to enter a closed gate and waits for the permission, which is never given.

Thus a year passes in a non-stop struggle with the legal system, and a day before his 31-st birthday, Joseph is taken by two agents and killed for his unidentified crime. “Like a dog!” says one of the murderers, “as if the shame of it should outlive him” (Kafka 165).

One of the main topics of the novel is law and justice. Overall, the whole story is devoted to the problems that happen if a justice system is not properly regulated (Rana and Dhanker 408). The author lived in Austrian-Hungarian Empire, where the rights of the people could be (and were) easily violated. Being a Bohemian Jew, Kafka was a representative of a minority; Czechs and Jews would be arrested and punished merely for their nationality, without having committed any crime (Cushman 51), including Kafka himself (Banville par. 15). The protagonist of The Trial starts having problems with the law from the very beginning of the novel : “he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested” (Kafka 1). This is an abrupt change in the life of a person, and there is no clear reason behind this change. K. is not even informed about the nature of his crime, his rights, the actions he can undertake to defend himself; this is basically a violation of the law committed by the judicial officials.

Beginning from that morning, Joseph K. gets into the horrible whirlwind of the justice system. His reaction is not even important to the officials, for the legal system is a scary machine that keeps working, no matter how strong one resists (Azizmohammadi, Kohzadi and Makki 1265). K. tries to resist, tries to use some resources, applies for a lawyer ‘s help, becomes dependent on his uncle and his lawyer, talks to a person with the same problem, but nothing works, and he suffocates from helplessness and slowly loses his mind. It looks like the method his sentence is carried out lies in making the accused person more and more exhausted until they have no more strength to protests. “You don’t need to accept everything as true,” says the priest to him, “you only have to accept it as necessary” (Kafka 154). The members of the legal system sometimes suffer from it themselves, but it does not stop the machine. Even the air inside the room, where the hearing takes place, is “quite oppressive” (Kafka 102). The law is now a part of K.’s life ; surely, it has always been, but K. had never noticed that before the arrest.

Thus, Kafka demonstrates that a legal system is a powerful tool in the hands of a totalitarian government that aims to subdue and control its citizens. An essential part of the narrative is Before the Law, a parable that a priest tells to Joseph. The plot of the parable is a metaphor, whose true meaning is probably the fruitlessness of Joseph’s efforts (as well as the efforts of people in a similar situation) to reach out to the Court and to vindicate himself, or at least to find out what was his crime (Deinert par. 4). In The Trial, Kafka presents justice system as a dangerous, corrupt, and completely unjust organization that is highly likely to violate people ‘s rights for no reason and serves the totalitarian state instead of serving people. This image is not fictional but is based on Kafka’s own experience and the experience of his acquaintances and the people of his nationality.

To my opinion, the justice system should not be so complicated and bureaucratized, not to mention that it should not be an enemy of people. It should follow at least basic principles of logic ; for instance, a person cannot build their defense previously to finding out what the crime was. The primary function of a legal system is to resolve conflicts, punish criminals, and protect society from those, who break the law. It is not a function of the legal system to be a tool in the hands of a tyrannical government, an instrument of intimidation and control. Law should serve the people, not the other way around ; in the same way, the government is an institution created to serve people and to solve their problems professionally, not to force them to think in one particular direction. In Kafka’s novel, dealing with the justice system resembles the life in a totalitarian state.

The end of the novel is as brutal and shocking as the rest of it. The way K. is executed is hardly consistent with any laws. Such a final enforces the understanding of how unjust the whole system is.

Works Cited

Azizmohammadi, Fatemeh, Hamedreza Kohzadi and Seyed Abolfazl Makki. “A Study of Franz Kafka ‘s The Trial.” Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research 2.2 (2012): 1262-1266. Print.

Banville, John. “Franz Kafka ‘s other trial.” The Guardian 2011. Web.

Cushman, Jenifer. “Criminal Apprehensions: Prague Minorities the Habsburg Legal System in Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk and Franz Kafka’s The Trial.” Rodopi Perspectives on Modern Literature: Literature and Law. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2005. 51-65. Print.

Deinert, Herbert. n.d. Kafka’s Parable Before The Law. Web.

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. Trans. David Wyllie. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2003. Print.

Rana, Sujata and Pooja Dhanker. “The Law as Tyrannical Mystery in Kafka’s The Trial.” Language in India 13.8 (2013): 403-423. Print.

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