Robert DonlanMrs. FletcherAP LiteratureMarch 3, 2001The Trial by Franz Kafka as an AutobiographyFranz Kafka was a very intelligent writer of his times. Kafka was born in Austro-Czechoslovakia.
He was mainly a writer of short stories, and complex diaries, yet he did publish a small number of novels. The works of Kafka have been interpreted as allegorical, autobiographical, psychoanalytical, Marxist, religious, existentialist, expressional, and naturalist. His novels have a wide variety of interpretations. Of his novels, The Trial is one of the more complex in aspects of literature (Bryfonski and Hall 288).
The Trial was written with the intention of an autobiography for Kafka. The Trial delves into the mind of the victim, K., and also into many things not comprehended by Kafka himself.
He wrote this book in order to better convey his questions that he pondered in his head, in search of an answer that was no where to be found, but perhaps in the workings of his fiction novels. The main character of The Trial is Joseph K. Yet through out the book he is referred to as simply K.
. There is no coincidence that Kafka created the character K. as the protagonist of The Trial. The significance was that Kafka was trying to represent himself through the character by giving a close enough name to his without merely stating his own name in the place of the protagonist of the novel. Kafka did this with another one of his characters, and related them to his life in a significant way through the book. For instance Kafka wrote this book at the time where he was engaged to his fianc Felice Bauer. Another other character in the book, by the name of Fraulein Burstner, is a neighbor of K.
. K. has a love for Fraulein Burstner. In Kafkas manuscripts, and rough drafts for The Trial he refers to Fraulein Burstner as simply F.B., which happens to be the same initials that his future wife had (Brod 170). K.
loses touch with Fraulein Burstner early in the book, and through out the book K. want to see her more than anything. K. receives a glimpse of Fraulein Burstner upon a balcony as he walked down the street before he is stabbed to death. Kafka at the time of writing The Trial was deeply in love with his fianc, Felice Bauer, and wanted to see her more than anything, when he wrote this book he felt a longing to be with her. Yet, the engagement was broken off shortly afterwards.
The use of characters in The Trial parallels to Kafka in a literal sense as well as figuratively. Kafka was a troubled man. He seemed lost in the big world. There were many things he could not comprehend in life.
Kafka was a devout Jew. Yet, he did not really understand many of the beliefs, and traditions. A belief, of those practicing some Orthodox Judaism, is the belief in original sin, and predestination. The Trial could be classified as a satire of Judaism, but its more likely to just be Kafkas interpretation upon something that he did not understand in the world. Kafka used K.
as his marionette in the book to convey many things that Kafka believed. From the beginning of the book, K. is arrested. K. claims innocence, but is not given a chance to really prove it by any means at any time.
He tries acquittal after acquittal, yet nothing seems to change. From the beginning till the end the reader does not know what the crime of K. is. This is Kafkas way of describing his feelings about original sin to his readers. Kafka did not understand the whole idea that a person can be born with sin upon their soul, so he satirized it in his book. K. is against a power, which he cannot relate to in anyway, and no matter what is done by him his verdict of the trial has already been decided (Wilson 294).
Kafka also brings in other religious ideas, with K., in his search for the answers. K. goes through the book trying to prove himself innocent, but he does not even know the crime of which he has committed. K.s life is taken over by the courts, and all he begins to do is to search for the answers to help him. This is much like Kafka in his life.
Kafka was searching for answers about his religion, but came up with nothing. He was devout, but was never truly moved by any supernatural forces. So K. is just like Kafka that they spend their time in search of something that has no true answer. K. has always followed the rules to what the reader knows (West 298). Yet, this arrest, and summoning of a high court system makes him wonder what rules did he break? It is much like a man in todays world in search of a deeper meaning in the society that surrounds him, but the search in the novel is fruitless, and is a waste.
This is much how Kafka felt about the world that surrounded him. He felt lost in a world that simply engulfed him, and he had no control. There are four main principles that can be obtained from The Trial. There is the idea of divine law. This can be seen multiple times because the entire story is merely the struggle of K. in a world that simply does not understand what he is trying to convey. He wanted to be innocent, yet the divine law did not allow for him to object to his crime, because divine law cannot be stopped, no mater what is done the inevitable cannot be stopped.
Another axiom would be that to survive in the world one must obey the divine law, because K. was not in accordance to the divine law, and his numerous pleas did not change the fact that his fate had already been sealed no matter what precautions were taken to offset it. There is a right and a wrong way to live life, would be the third point brought up. Those who go questioning everything will not always find the answers; occasionally something significant would be uncovered, yet most things will turn up as dead ends. After leaving one of his interrogations K. becomes lost in the building, and is overwhelmed by his stress of all the long corridors leading to dead ends or doors that did not open.
This is symbolic of the way that Kafka found most of his problems. There would be a long hall, but only a dead end would be found. K.
was merely going in circles with everything, and the right way of living was not being obtained, and his demise came from it. The fourth and final principle is that of how a person can cope with a power that controls, but is unknown. This idea is the idea of blind faith (Muir 219-200). The religion that Kafka preached of a God who was of higher power, but you could only believe in him, and not truly see him. Kafka did the same thing with his character K.
. K is in trying to understand the power that is controlling him. Yet, this cannot truly be done. K. is in search of something, that cannot be found. The search is to prove that the powers are wrong, yet what K.
does not realize is that these powers control his life from the start, and he has no real hope at all in fighting them. Kafka himself found no hope in his search either, in the form of religion. These axioms play out through the entire story, make up a key role in the connections between K. and Kafka. The book all leads up to one key point, the death of K.
. Yet, the end of the book is not truly the death of K.. The death of K. is a long and arduous process. From the very beginning of the book K. has already been killed.
The entire story is merely a nightmare, which ensues and engulfs his life (Davin 186). Its like a sickness that kills him. Surely enough in the diaries of Kafka he states: Healthy now disperse the phantoms of the nightthe phantoms return as the night wears on, and in the morning they are still there, only they are not recognizable (qtd. in Davin 186). Kafka discovered that he was sick with tuberculosis when he began writing The Trial, and he conveyed his sickness through the story. The sickness is inherently the sickness of society, and a higher power that could not be comprehended, questioned, or proven unjust.
The death of K. does begin from the beginning of the story, because it is not truly his death that kills him, it is everything that leads up to his death in the novel. Kafka himself was feeling that his life was coming to a close in a few short years because of his incurable disease, and he took his death and moved it into a fiction world where other forces controlled the reason for the terminal ending.
K. did want to confess. He just wanted a way out. There was nothing to confess.
K. is not really in a battle against the courts though, he is merely fighting himself, in a battle of self discovery (Spanini 178-79).Near the end of the story K. goes to a Cathedral. There he talks to a priest. K.
comments that the priest does not even know who he is. The priest says: You are Joseph K. and K. replies I am not guilty. We are all human beings here. The preacher then, in turn says: But that is how the guilty tend to speak (Kafka 210). This small discourse is used to show the guilty conscience of man, and perhaps that is the factor that is causing K.
to bear all this suffering in The Trial (Heller 74). Kafka was one to write about his own world how he saw it on a deeper, inner level. The Trial depicts how Kafka feels about the world that surrounds him, and the struggles that come along with it (Fraiberg 299). The Trial is simply a voyage into the mind of Franz Kafka. The character K.
goes through many things to develop a thought of confusion and hopelessness. This is just how Kafka felt in the world upon writing this book. Everything in the life of K. belonged to the courts, and everything in Kafkas life seemed to be without control, as if a court was watching over him as well. The use of character similarities between Kafka and the book, the deep thought about religion and philosophy that is delved into, the feelings upon the axial points of life, and the coping with death all play a major role in the story in how Kafka feels about them in the real world.
Strangely enough Joseph K. dies on the day of his 31st birthday, after dealing with the trial for about a year. Kafka himself died on his 31st birthday too because of his lost battle with tuberculosis. Yet, this was not something that was written about in the book to parallel his life. Its just another coincidence between The Trial and the real life of Kafka.Works CitedBrod, Max.
Twentieth Century Literary Criticisms. Ed. Dennis Poupard and Paula Leipos. Vol. 29 Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988.
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Franz Kafka. New York: The Viking Press, 1974.Kafka, Franz. The Trial. New York: Schocken Books, 1984Muir, David.
Twentieth Century Literary Criticisms. Ed. Hall. Vol.
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Vol.2. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979.Wilson, Edmund. Twentieth Century Literary Criticisms.
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