Justice On Trial in Kafka's The Trial Essay

Justice On Trial in Kafka's The Trial Essay

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Justice On Trial in Kafka's The Trial

There is no such thing as justice - in or out of court.        Clarence Darrow i

Most often critically interpreted as a search for Divine justice, Kafka's The Trial, a fragmented and unfinished novel, appears to leave us with the same impression as the words above of Clarence Darrow.  In other words, there is no justice.  This assessment of Divine justice by Kafka works on two levels.  On one level, he is illustrating the helpless nature of the individual when in conflict against an established bureaucracy.  On another level, he is illustrating the existential dilemma of man in the face of a godless, indifferent, and often hostile universe.  A search for justice by Josef K. finds no justice in either realm. 

Josef K. awakes one morning to find himself accused by a mysterious legal authority "Someone must have been spreading lies about Josef K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."ii  His crime is unnamed, one of which he knows nothing.  The novel follows his many attempts to obtain justice from authorities with which he cannot communicate well.  Josef K.'s attempt to find justice end in his utter frustration, his complete loss of human dignity, and his cruel death by stabbing.

The Trial is also meant to symbolize original sin and guilt.  On the level of the individual versus the bureaucracy, Josef K. is consumed by guilt and condemned for a crime he does not understand by a court with which he cannot communicate.  We see this same dilemma on the level of the individual versus an existential existence, i.e., man in the modern world trying to find meaning and justice, consumed by guilt and condemned for original sin by a god with which he ca...

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Solzhenitsyn, A. I. The Gulag Archipelago, (I-II).  Translated by Thomas P. Whitney.  New York:  Harper & Row Publishers, 1973.


i Fitzhenry, R. I. (ed.).  Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations, New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1986, 197.

ii Kafka, F.  The Trial.  Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir.  Introduction by George Steiner.  New York, Schocken Books, 1992, 1.

iii Id. 180.

iv Id. 46.

v  Id. 46.

vi  Id. 97.

vii  Id. 150.

viii  Id. 121.

ix Beit v. Probate and Family Court Department, 434 N.E.2d 642 (1982), at 643, citing The Trial at 290.

x Kafka, 42.

xi Id. 222.

xii  Id. 43.

xiii  Id. 108.

xiv  Id. 228.

xv Id. 229.

xvi Solzhenitsyn, A. I. The Gulag Archipelago, (I-II).  Translated by Thomas P. Whitney.  New York:  Harper & Row Publishers, 1973, 436.

xvii Id. 437.

xviii  Id. 295.

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