Last week’s discussion of The Trial primarily revolved around the concepts of ambiguity and diversion and how this connects to an understanding of Josef K.’s paranoiac behaviors. Still keeping these conversations in mind, this week Emily and I wanted to shift the focus a bit and examine the nature of law, power, and guilt in the novel.
The reading I’ve asked you to take a look at covers a lot of ground: Henel discusses the nature of a parable and illuminates the similarities between “The Legend of the Doorkeeper” and Josef K.’s situation, examines the function of “the officials” in the novel, and looks the idea of the “law of the individual,” among other things.
While these concepts are all intertwined, I was especially interested in Henel’s discussion of guilt, responsibility, and “self-justification” in The Trial. Take a look, in particular, at the concept of “motivation” Henel includes from pages 46-48 (explicitly explained on those pages, but it is helpful to read beyond that section to gain a full appreciation for what Henel is getting at).
What do you think Josef K. is guilty of, if anything? What is your understanding of guilt in the novel? What do you make of Josef K.’s statement on page 213 of The Trial (“How can any person in general be guilty?”) as well as the priest’s response? Is this simply a display of Josef K.’s inability to confess his guilt, or is there something more here? After reading the novel as well as Henel’s interpretation, how would you answer the string of questions Henel poses at the beginning of the essay: What kind of reality does Kafka portray in his works?
Lastly, if there was anything else in Henel’s reading that you were particularly drawn to, feel free to address that.