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Kafka's The Trial
Kafka's The Trial follows a man, K., as he is arrested and released for an unknown offense and attends a series of bizarre trials. He tries to comprehend and extricate himself from an outrageous course of events, which transpire suddenly in his life. K. is persecuted by this unimaginable court, which seems to hold a quasi-authoritative place in society. K.'s life seems to spiral out of control while he and the reader struggle to understand what is going on. Kafka uses this piece to criticize bureaucracy, even in a seemingly democratic society. Kafka believes that bureaucracy is endangering the freedoms of the individual in modern society and that it is extremely detrimental to society in the long run. It is not readily identifiable what geographical location Kafka is referring to in The Trial. Based on the rest of the novel's bizarre twists and turns it seems that Kafka did not want to nail down any concrete location to weight down his surrealist story. While there is no link with any known location (other than perhaps Kafka's hometown of Prague) the surroundings are modern and urban. In The Trial, K spends most of his time in various buildings with very little mention of any identifying characteristics. Kafka seems to center around middle class urbanites for the most part. Kafka tackles the evils of government and bureaucracy, concentrating on the social implications of these man made authorities on the individual.
Reification seems to serve a pervasive role in Kafka's The Trial. Reification is when something abstract is given material worth by a society It seems that Kafka is questioning how the legal system has been given so much authority and power making it a material entity. In 1912, when Kafka penned The Trial, the rise of the republic was evident around Europe. There was a renewed emphasis on realism and rationale, which also makes an appearance in The Trial. When published, Kafka's novels "evoked the hopelessness of individuals confronting a relentless, machinelike society in which they are minor cogs". As the threat of war swirled in Europe (World War I was just on the horizon), anti Semitism and nationalism surrounded Kafka. In the arts, the rise of modernity created a challenge to positivism that could not be silenced.
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The author of The Trial, Franz Kafka lead an interesting life which holds some parallels to his protagonist, K. Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague, Bohemia to a middle class Jewish family. Kafka's father was a strong patriarchal force in his life, however he lived at home until around age 40. Kafka worked as an insurance salesman and wrote in his spare time although he saw it as a curse rather than embracing his talent. He always saw himself as a failure (according to his father's standards) even though he earned himself a degree in law and would later become one of the most influential writers in the 20th century. It was only because of Kafka's friend that he came to become the one of the best writers of the 20th century. Kafka demanded that all of his manuscripts be destroyed after his death . However, his friend published his works posthumously and was the architect of Kafka's belated place in literary history. During his life, Kafka remained virtually unknown and spent a great deal of his life in sanatoriums for TB. Kafka's protagonist, K., seems to struggle with his emotions and unable to relate well to women throughout The Trial. It seems from what we know about Kafka that he struggled from these very same issues. It seems that Kafka is attacking the very same middle class attitudes and institutions, which his family participates in.
Kafka seems to be attempting to reveal the evils of modernization and the rise of institutions throughout society. The Trial takes aim at the absurdities of the legal system, a system that Kafka must have been well acquainted during his legal studies. Kafka seems to be extremely concerned about man's survival in the modern world and the loss of rights and freedoms that he will have to endure. Kafka seems to be trying to warn his readers of the pervasive nature of corrupt forces in society.
Kafka's books were revolutionary at the time and hold an important place in 20th century literature. Kafka criticized the societal norms that were becoming normal and common. In the Trial, Kafka clearly picks apart bureaucracy and the illogical practices of large governments. It is essential that we understand the evolution of these systems (which greatly impact us today) as well as clearly understand the lunacy of some of the policies that those very systems bring to the table. Kafka is trying to relay a message of criticism that he hopes will make society wake up to the injustices that threaten individual freedoms. Kafka holds an important place in literary history himself. "He is considered one of the most significant figures in modern world literature; the term Kafkaesque has, in fact, come to be applied commonly to grotesque, anxiety-producing social conditions or their treatment in literature". Kafka's style and message lives on through his literature to this very day. His message to beware of unwieldy bureaucracy and tightly guard our personal liberties is still valid to this very day.