Kafka, The Trial: Conor

Posted by Conor

Throughout, The Trial, the main character Joseph K. struggles with gaining recognition from the officials that are persecuting him. The withhold crucial information from him about his arrest which causes K. to suffer immensely. However, Harry Slochower writes in his article that the protagonists Kafka has created are lacking. Slochower feels that they don’t have a distinct identity which hurts the story. These officials don’t appear to have any information to offer K. and they make themselves appear as lowly as possible. However, if looked at in a different perspective this was likely done on purpose by Kafka. Instead Slochower should look at these protagonists as a way of inhibiting K.’s vision. There are several instances where it appears that K. is being distracted from the truth. When K. is first confronted by the officials in his chambers at the beginning of the novel, he insists they tell him more information. They respond with indifference saying, “There’s been no mistake. After all, out department, as far as I know, and I know only the lowest level, doesn’t seek out guilt among the general population, but, as the Law states, is attracted by guilt and has to send us guards out. That’s the Law” (Kafka 8). In this quote, no information has been given. In fact, it appears that the officials are attempting to appear unknowing as to what K. has done. K. is naturally angered by this and presses further, but in vain. No information is given to him. In the end, K.’s attention is diverted as if to prevent any more prying. It is suspicious behavior. This diversion of attention from the truth is similar to the plot in, The Purloined Letter. K., like Paris’s police are searching for something. The letter is in plain sight, but the fact that it is in plain sight diverts the eyes of the police so they are hidden from the truth. K. even acknowledges at one point that his attention is being affected by the officials. “Then K. remembered that he hadn’t seen the inspector and the guards leave: the inspector had diverted his attention from the three clerks, and now the clerks, had done the same for the inspector. They didn’t show much presence of mind, and K. resolved to pay greater attention to such things” (Kafka 19). This theme of diversion continues where K. is left in the dark. Once he attempts to gain more information, a distraction stops him from discerning the truth. What other instances in the narrative do you see the officials are adverting K.’s attention, and how does this affect the storyline? Or should K. use the technique of self-observation used to heal paranoia patients to discover what it is he has been accused from? The book doesn’t ever give a straight answer.

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