The Trial

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Josef K.

The novel’s protagonist. Josef works as the chief clerk of a bank and appears poised for success—until an unexplained arrest and protracted trial consume his life, and eventually leads to his execution. Though Josef is… (read full character analysis)

Fraulein Burstner

A young woman who lives across the hall from Josef’s room in Frau Grubach’s boardinghouse. Josef goes to her room one night for a brief conversation and ends up kissing her. Afterwards, Josef tries to… (read full character analysis)


A painter commissioned to make portraits of court officials. His position has given him an insider’s knowledge of the judiciary, and he is willing to use it to help Josef. When Josef visits the… (read full character analysis)


Block is a client of Herr Huld’s who has been on trial for five years. His obsession with his trial has led him to enlist the services of five different lawyers. Huld finds Block irritating… (read full character analysis)

The Doorkeeper

A character in the parable Josef hears from the prison chaplain. The doorkeeper guards a gate to the law; behind him, more powerful doorkeepers guard other gates. A man comes seeking access to the… (read full character analysis)
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Minor Characters
Frau Grubach
Josef’s landlady. Josef is one of her favorite tenants.
The Deputy Director
Josef’s main adversary in the bank where he works. Much to Josef’s chagrin, while he is distracted by his trial the Deputy Director eagerly usurps Josef’s responsibilities at work in order to gain a competitive edge.
The Prison Chaplain
The prison chaplain has Josef summoned to a cathedral towards the end of the book. He tells Josef that his trial is not going well, and recounts an important parable taken from the texts of the Law.
Uncle Karl
Josef’s blustery uncle and one-time guardian. Karl is extremely anxious about Josef’s case and demands that Josef contract the services of his lawyer friend, Herr Huld.
Herr Huld
Josef’s bed-ridden lawyer. Though esteemed in his profession, Huld appears to do nothing to help Josef’s case, and is eventually fired by Josef. While Huld treats Josef fairly deferentially, he mercilessly belittles another of his clients, Block the tradesman.
Huld’s maid. Leni is extremely flirtatious with Josef, and the two appear to have a brief affair. It is later revealed that she is similarly attracted to all accused men.
Franz and Willem
Franz and Willem are the two policemen who first arrest Josef at the beginning of the novel. In court, Josef denounces their unprofessional conduct, and he later comes across the two men being whipped as punishment.
The Cane-Wielder
The man who whips Franz and Willem. When Josef attempts to pay him to stop whipping them, he refuses for fear that if he shirks his duty then he will get whipped.
The Examining Magistrate
The judge presiding at Josef's first appearance before the court, and who informs Josef that his haughty denunciation of the court has cost him the benefits that an arrested man can gain from a hearing.
The Court Usher
A functionary at the court who takes Josef for a tour around the premises and explains that the court only proceeds with trials it is certain to win.
Elsa, a cocktail waitress whom Josef calls upon once a week, is the closest thing to a romantic partner in Josef’s routine life.
Fraulein Montag
A friend of Fraulein Burstner who relays Burstner’s dismissals to Josef.
Captain Lanz
A nephew of Frau Grubach who also lives in her boardinghouse.