The Trial by Franz Kafka can be described as existentialist novel, because even if Sartre and Camus would not have written The Trial, most of the themes developed by the existentialist philosophies are represented: the absurdity of the world , the contingency of existence, the nightmare of intersubjectivity, the political oppression, …
The novel opens with the arrest of Joseph K. suddenly in his room at his home on the morning of his birthday. Two guards shall inform it without explaining what the charges against him. Despite his arrest, k. is free to go to work at the bank.
Then K. appears in court, defending his cause by denouncing the conditions of his arrest and official corruption. But the judge noted that his audience is composed only of officials.
K. returns to court next week, it is empty because no session will be held that day. He meets other defendants, including the physical exhaustion shows created by trial. His uncle pushed him to hire a lawyer, Huld. This lawyer will prove ineffective. Meanwhile, K. manages to seduce his neighbor, Lina.
Some time later, K. is requested by the bank to take an Italian client on a tour of the local cathedral. When K. arrives at the cathedral, the Italian client fails to appear. After watching some of the arts of the Cathedral, K. is about to leave when a priest called his name. The priest happens to be the prison chaplain, and punishes K. for his indifference to it. The chaplain then tells a parable about K. a local man who seeks access to the law, but is prevented from doing so by a porter. After discussing several possible interpretations of this parable, K. asked the chaplain to help his case, but the chaplain refused.
Finally come again the anniversary of K. He is dressed to go out that night, but he is surprised by two men dressed formally. The two men to guide him to a career outside the city, where one of them close to his neck and the other pierced him twice in the heart.
Analysis of Kafka’s Trial:
At first glance, the case is a review of the judicial system, this machine to grind anonymous individuals. The entire system, the Judge Advocate through the police, is considered plagued by corruption and bureaucracy. But a closer analysis relates to other themes in Kafka: the absurdity, the inhumanity of the modern world, totalitarianism, alienated subjectivity.
Kafka and the absurd:
From the opening words, the story is illogical. And this inconsistency is intensified by the events that happen to Joseph K. The absurd is the total trial. The absurd in Kafka seems to denote a gap in the rational world, since everything was swallowed up by the hyper-rationalization (e.g. the judiciary). The Frankfurt School, including Adorno, describe the process of rationalization, as the advent of the totalitarian world.
This world has become inhuman, hostile to the subjectivity that has no choice but to blend into the crowd. K. moreover, has no name, it is indeed one. If K. is an elusive and enigmatic character is that man in general is opaque to himself: I is another.
This theme will be further price Heidegger, who described the public as a world dictatorship of the “it”, as a form of inauthenticity. Kafka, the other is the executioner, as he will be in No Exit by Sartre.
Conclusion of Kafka’s philosophy
K. is an anti-hero, he lives in inauthenticity, it is actually guilty. Accused, wrongly perhaps, he eventually abdicated, he is convinced he is guilty. While he could escape, flee his tiral, K., like modern man prefers to be killed, he abandoned all desire to live. He was shot down “like a dog” because he lets himself be dominated by the society, which has fixed, objectified, riveted him to his guilt. We recognize here the theses developed by Nietzsche.