“These contradictions are easy to explain … We must distinguish between two things: what is written in the Law, and what I have discovered through personal experience; you must not confuse the two.” (192)
I’ll suffer the cliché and state that it is a pity Kafka died so young, for the brevity of his short life’s work yields a depth that transcends time. His allegorical tales are both witty and dismal: they are knowingly infected by the loneliness of urban life and poke fun at the burdens of societal bureaucracy. The Trial is the first of Kafka’s longer works that I’ve read and knowing the gravity of his shorter stories, I was prepared for an arduous task in reading his novel, but was pleasantly surprised by the succinct style that drives the work along.
You may know the story well, Joseph K. is arrested and put on trial by the state judicial system; however K.’s judges do not reveal the circumstances of the crime for which he has been arrested. In an effort to vindicate himself, K. discovers the state’s pervasive presence in his life and he ultimately succumbs to a sad acceptance that he is powerless towards his own cause. K.’s last effort towards freedom is demonstrated in the following dialogue between the court’s chaplain and K. as they discuss an allegorical tale about a man who dies waiting to find an entrance into the legal system in order to defend himself.
“it is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.”
“A melancholy conclusion…it turns lying into a universal principal.” (276)
Reflecting upon The Trial I am reminded of the revelations of my young philosophies. The concepts of nationalism, country, legality, and monetary wealth are values only because we allow them to have value over our existence. In truth they are only concepts, but the greater truth, or rather trap, is that the paradigm of culture has allowed these perceived concepts to control our existence and redefine what truth really is. A man will die for a crime he knows not the name of if all who surround him pressure him into believing, like a dog, that he is guilty.