Kafka’s The Trial Essay

Kafka’s The Trial Essay

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Kafka’s The Trial delves into the life of Josef K., a bank worker who gets himself tied up in an unknown trial, against an indefinable and ultimately unaccountable legal system. While the piece is a work of fiction it parallels many of the legal problems in existence during the period in which Kafka was writing and to an extent gives a fictitious account of many real events going on. Many parallels can be seen in the trials of Alfred Dreyfus, Oscar Wilde, John Scopes and Nikolai Bukharin in various ways. The book indirectly questions legal principals such as an accessible system and a clear understanding of the process. Fundamentally these principles are missing from the other real trials in question, and represent in most cases a serious miscarriage of justice.

One of the first trials encountered in this class was that of Alfred Dreyfus, a Captain in the French military who was accused of treason for passing French intelligence to the Germans. However where many parallels can be found lies in the subsequent actions taken by the French military and legal system. Dreyfus was convicted on treason and sentenced to be transported to Guiana and serve in a penal colony. As a result he was removed from his legal proceedings, he no longer had access to his case nor any of the officials who had any power to change his case. Kafka’s depicts this process similarly in The Trial, Josef K. has very little to no access to his case and absolutely none surrounding its details, while he is not physically removed from the case he is removed from the case based on the inaccessibility of the courts, the judges and even legal counsel. Dreyfus was similarly removed from the country in order to serve his sentence and it was not until others began to p...


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... of Kafka’s The Trial and brings to light some of the frightening realities of the legal system during the early to mid 20th century. Whether it is the inaccessible court or lawyers, or the complete disregard for evidence and documentation. Even if some of the fault lies in the accused for not understanding the system, many trials in this period reflected poor practices of justice particularly so in the case of Bukharin and Dreyfus. Kafka’s work truly encapsulates the legal system both before and after The Trial was written incredibly effectively. It gives a clear idea as to the how miscarriages of justice can occur and what changes had to be made to the legal system in order resolve these issues. It is perhaps arguable that the courts today still face some of these issues and that Kafka’s work is still relevant in determining some of our legal principles today.

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