The Trial Study Guide

The Trial Study Guide

Original title:
Der Prozeß

The Trial is a surrealistic novel by Franz Kafka that tells us the story of a single average man fighting with the incredibly complicated and incomprehensible bureaucracy. The horror of the story is in the fact that each single element like trial, interrogation or searching for a lawyer makes perfect sense, but altogether they look like a nightmare where anyone understands what is happening except the main character of it.

The protagonist is accused of… something. He doesn’t even know what is his crime, but everyone else is perfectly aware of it. He becomes ostracized, he has to go to the court for endless trials and be scolded for being not serious about it. He hires the lawyers, but they can do nothing with such a complicated case. The life of an average worker of the bank, an everyman with dull but established life turns into the life of a criminal, who tries to prove that he is not guilty, but in vain.

Like other stories of Kafka, The Trial is built around the idea that everyone around considers that there is something wrong with the character, while he is either not aware of what happened to him or, on the contrary, is perfectly aware but can do nothing to undo this. In The Trial the things seem to be worst of all because we never know the real reason for all the events of the story. It taps into our primal fear of being wrongly accused and excluded from the society without any chance to learn the reason and return to the previous life. The world of The Trial reminds us of Wonderland described by Carroll, but in the darkest sense: the main character just doesn’t fit into the mad logic of the world around him and any attempts to live according to the laws of the world he is used to only make things worse. The schizophrenic nightmare of The Trial looks so mundane and similar to the average life for the first glance, but we are terrified to learn how much wrong and hostile is this world.

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