The Trial

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
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 an arrogant, calculating, and judgmental man, his failed struggle to understand a byzantine justice system provokes the reader’s sympathy.

Josef K. Quotes in The Trial

The The Trial quotes below are all either spoken by Josef K. or refer to Josef K.. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of The Trial published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

The famous first sentence of The Trial immediately establishes an atmosphere of strangeness and confusion. The narrator introduces the main premise of the novel: Josef K., the protagonist, is wrongfully accused of an unknown crime for unknown reasons. Note the mix of vagueness and specificity in the sentence––Josef K.'s name is specified (although his last name is anonymized) and the fact that he was arrested "without having done anything wrong" is presented as a clear fact. At the same time, the first phrase, "Someone must have been telling tales," is completely indeterminate. Why is this the most likely explanation for Josef's mistaken arrest, when surely any number of factors could have been the cause? This question is left unanswered, creating a sense of uncertainty and suspense.

The opening sentence also conveys the impression that there is corruption within both the society and justice system being described. The fact that the narrator assumes someone has lied in order to indict Josef indicates that this is a world in which people have duplicitous and mistrustful relationships with one another. Meanwhile, the suggestion that the lie about Josef was enough to warrant his arrest hints that the law is perhaps being used in an irresponsible and unfair manner. 

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Trial quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

What kind of people were they? What were they talking about? Which department did they belong to? After all, K. had rights, the country was at peace, the laws had not been suspended—who, then, had the audacity to descend on him in the privacy of his own home?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Two policemen, Franz and Willem, have arrived at Josef's boarding house to arrest him, and have forbidden him from leaving his room. They have refused to tell him why he is being arrested, although they've promised he will find out soon enough. In this passage, Josef puzzles over who the policemen are, why they are arresting him, and why they are behaving in such a strange and unprofessional manner. The Trial is filled with instances of characters asking questions like these––sometimes aloud, or, as in this case, inside their own heads––that rarely receive a satisfying answer. These frustrated questions help convey the idea that the characters expect there to be a reasonable, knowledgable authority to which they can appeal, when in fact that is not the case. 

Indeed, it is clear at this point that Josef still has faith in the system of governance under which he lives. He brings up the department Franz and Willem belong to and the rights and laws he is entitled to as a citizen, implying he believes these structures will ensure he ultimately receives fair treatment. Josef's trust in the bureaucratic operations of the government and law will soon evaporate as a result of the nightmarish, bewildering experiences he undergoes at the hands of these institutions in the rest of the novel.   

Chapter 2 Quotes

He [Josef] went out, grasped her [Fraulein Burstner], kissed her on the lips and then all over her face, like a thirsty animal furiously lapping at the water of the spring it has found at last. Finally he kissed her on the neck, over the throat, and left his lips there for a long time.

Related Characters: Josef K., Fraulein Burstner
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Without her knowledge, Josef has waited for Fraulein Burstner to return home and has subjected her to a reenactment of his arrest, during which time he moves her furniture around and loudly yells. Fraulein Burstner is alarmed by both his yelling and a subsequent knock on the door, and Josef comforts her before unexpectedly embracing and kissing her. The description of Josef's kiss is comic, if a little disturbing. It focuses entirely on Josef's actions, implying either that Fraulein Burstner doesn't exactly reciprocate the kiss or rather that her reaction doesn't matter to Josef.

Indeed, the impression that Fraulein Burstner is merely an object upon which Josef acts is emphasized by the fact that before she comes home he admits he does not know her particularly well. His eagerness to see her seems to be based in a desire to have an audience––any audience––listen to the story of his arrest, rather than a particular interest in Fraulein Burstner as a person. This confirms the impression that Josef is a self-absorbed and rather unlikeable character, and highlights the way in which individuals in this society are alienated from one another and use each other—and in the case of the novel's women, this manipulation or oppression usually comes in a sexual form. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

He was annoyed that he hadn’t been told precisely where the room was, the manner in which he was being treated was strangely negligent or offhand, a point he intended to make loudly and clearly. Finally he went up the first staircase after all, with the memory of something the guard Willem had said going through his mind, namely that the court was attracted by guilt, so that logically the hearing should be held in a room on the staircase K. happened to choose.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Josef has been informed that his first hearing is on Sunday, although the time isn't specified. He has travelled to the suburb where the hearing is to take place, aiming to be there for 9 am, as that is when the courts open. When he arrives, he is unable to locate the room in which his hearing is to take place, and in this passage he describes his frustration at not having been told the exact location. He follows his instinct to take the first staircase, thinking this instinct may be born of guilt and thus correctly lead him to the site of his trial. This observation is curious, as there is supposedly no doubt that Josef is innocent.

However, part of what makes the world of the novel so disturbing is the way in which perversion of the law begins to blur distinctions between guilt and innocence. The position of being accused comes to make Josef feel guilty in itself, partly because it results in further acts of wrongdoing (such as showing up to the hearing at the wrong time) that Josef commits unknowingly. Willem's claim that "the court was attracted by guilt" also suggests that the law has become a self-perpetuating tool for condemning people that is alarmingly independent from the notion of justice.

The woman really did tempt him and, however much he thought about it, he could find no plausible reason why he should not yield to the temptation. He easily dismissed the cursory objection that she would tie him to the court. In what way could she tie him? Would he not still remain free enough to crush the court at one blow, at least insofar as it affected him? Could he not have confidence in himself to do that small thing? And her offer of help sounded genuine and was perhaps not to be discounted. Could there be any better revenge on the examining magistrate and his entourage, than to deprive them of this woman and take her to himself?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Josef has arrived at the courthouse a week after his original hearing, unsure of when the second hearing is supposed to be; once there, he has again encountered the washerwoman, who it turns out is the court usher's wife, and who flirtatiously offers to help Josef with his case. At first Josef is suspicious of this offer, but in this passage he comes to believe that he might as well accept, reasoning that sleeping with the woman likely won't do any harm and would be a satisfying way of undermining the examining magistrate and other men involved with the court. Such reasoning is a typical example of the way in which all the characters in the novel are constantly seeking to gain power over one another. Note the way in which women are often used as instruments through which men assert their dominance. 

Indeed, as with Fraulein Burstner, it is clear in this passage that Josef feels no particular attraction to the washerwoman as a person. Rather, her appeal lies in the fact that she may be able to help with his case and that seducing her will prove a form of revenge against the men who work at the court. Yet considering Josef harbors no great passion for this woman in particular, he seems oddly quick to dismiss the potential dangers that seducing her might involve—Kafka gives the sense that Josef is caught up in desire and not reasoning well. He insists that sleeping with her would not further tie him to the court and that he would "remain free enough to crush the court at one blow," a claim that highlights Josef's arrogance and misperception of the power of the law. 

He felt as if he were seasick, as if he were on a ship in a heavy sea. It was as if the water were crashing against the wooden walls, as if a rushing sound came from the far end of the corridor, like water pouring over, as if the corridor were rocking to and fro and as if the people sitting on either side were going up and down. It made the calm of the young woman and the man who were helping him to the exit all the more incomprehensible.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Related Symbols: The Court’s Oppressive Air
Page Number: 56-57
Explanation and Analysis:

The law student has carried the washerwoman away, and Josef has accompanied the court usher into the law office, which has an incredibly stuffy atmosphere, such that Josef begins to feel seasick. The dramatic description of the way the office air makes Josef feel––as if he is on a ship in the middle of a stormy sea––is a peculiar contrast to the tedious, vague conversations he has had with another accused man about the man's case. This contrasts illustrates the way in which the stiflingly dull world of the court is actually severely oppressive, so much so that Josef feels physically sick and is eventually forced to leave. This experience is made worse by the fact that the others in the office seem completely fine, thereby increasing Josef's feelings of isolation.

Chapter 5 Quotes

He felt anguish at having been unable to prevent the thrashing, but it wasn’t his fault. If Franz hadn’t screamed—true, it must have hurt a lot, but a man should be able to control himself at decisive moments—if Franz hadn’t screamed then K. would, at least very probably, have found some means of winning the thrasher over.

Related Characters: Josef K., Franz and Willem, The Cane-Wielder
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

While leaving the office at the end of a workday, Josef has heard cries behind a door in his office building, and discovered Franz and Willem about to be "thrashed" by a man wearing a leather executioner's outfit—a punishment for their behavior during Josef's arrest. Josef has attempted to bribe the thrasher into sparing Franz and Willem, but to no avail, and in this passage he attempts to assuage his feelings of guilt by telling himself that if Franz had not screamed he would have been able to successfully intervene. This reasoning reveals how flimsy Josef's sympathy for Willem and Franz really is; not only does he blame Franz in order to escape blaming himself, he judges Franz for not restraining himself from crying out. 

The episode with the thrasher is characterized by the physical experience of shame. When Josef tries to bribe the thrasher he does so with lowered eyes, and in this passage he clearly experiences a sense of shame through association with Franz's audible pain. These details suggest that the feeling of humiliation, rather than creating empathy and solidarity, instead has the stifling, paralyzing, and isolating effect of driving people further apart. Yet Josef will not admit that his own behavior made him somewhat complicit in Franz and Willem's punishment; instead, he arrogantly claims that without Franz's screams he would "have found some means of winning the thrasher over"––a statement that seems unlikely given Josef's own ineffectual nature and the seemingly limitless power of the legal system. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

Please don’t ask me for names, but stop making this mistake, stop being intransigent, no one can resist this court, you just have to confess. Confess at the next opportunity. It’s only then there’s a possibility of escaping, only then, though even that’s not possible without outside help. But you needn’t worry about that, I’ll provide the help myself.

Related Characters: Leni (speaker), Josef K.
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Josef has been visited by his uncle and former guardian Karl, who is worried about Josef's case and takes Josef to the house of his friend, a lawyer named Herr Huld. At the house, Huld's maid, Leni, smashes a plate in order to get Josef's attention, and privately urges him to confess to the accusation against him. She insists that this is the only means by which Josef can "escape," although even this is not guaranteed. Like the washerwoman, Leni is involved with the courts through her association with men who work in the law, and like the washerwoman, Leni flirts with Josef, offering to help him as a means of seduction. This again emphasizes the corruption of the legal system.

Leni's advice also adds another line to the contradictory chorus of voices telling Josef what he should do about his case. While at this point in the novel Josef remains confident that he will be able to escape the charges, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not likely. Leni's claim that "no one can resist this court" is given a double meaning by her attempts to seduce Josef through helping with his trial, while further conveying the sense that Josef is trapped within a system that is labyrinthine and all-encompassing.

Chapter 7 Quotes

It was very important, because the first impression the defence made often determined the whole course of the trial. Unfortunately he [Herr Huld] had to point out to K. that it sometimes happened that first submissions to the court were not read at all. They were simply filed, and the officials declared that hearing and observing the accused was more important than any written material. If the petitioner was insistent they would add that, once all the material had been gathered and before a decision was reached, all the files, including the first submission, would naturally be reviewed as a whole. Unfortunately, he said, that too was mostly incorrect, the first submission was usually mislaid or completely lost, and even if it was kept right to the end it was hardly read, though he, the lawyer, had only heard rumours to that effect.

Related Characters: Josef K., Herr Huld
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

It is winter and Josef has started to feel increasingly consumed by his trial and worried that Herr Huld is not going to be of sufficient help. Feeling exhausted, he reflects that although Huld appears reluctant to listen to Josef, at least he has a lot of experience and has almost finished the first plea. Huld has advised Josef that the first plea is highly important, but that unfortunately this document is often lost by the court and never read at all. This passage is a typical example of the way in which bureaucratic incompetence can appear to be a relatively mild problem, but in fact has nightmarish consequences. It is also a good example of Kafka's dark humor: the passage starts out making one point, and then gradually undercuts it with frustrating, convoluted examples of contrary exceptions, until by the end of the passage the original intent has been entirely reversed—and then there is a final twist at the end, that the whole thing is just hearsay and probably not true.

In terms of Josef's case, part of the problem lies in the completely contradictory information Josef receives about the legal system. He knows that the first plea is important, yet is also being told that this first submission is almost never read; such inconsistency makes it impossible to know the truth, and decreases the likelihood that Josef will be able to successfully appeal against his arrest. To make matters worse, none of this knowledge is transparently available, but instead transmitted via "rumours." Although Josef has placed hope in the fact that Huld is experienced, this means little in a legal system where procedures are disorganized and opaque, and where information is dispersed through conjecture. 

‘Yes,’ said the painter, ‘it was in the commission that I had to paint her like that, it’s actually Justice and the Goddess of Victory at the same time.’ ‘That’s not a good combination,’ said K. with a smile, ‘Justice has to be in repose, otherwise the scales will wobble and a just verdict will not be possible.’ ‘I’m following my client’s wishes,’ the painter said. ‘Yes, of course,’ said K., who had not intended to offend anyone with his remark. ‘You’ll have painted the figure as it is on the chair.’ ‘No,’ said the painter, ‘I’ve never seen either the figure or the chair, but I was told what I was to paint.’

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker), Titorelli (speaker)
Related Symbols: Titorelli’s Painting of the Judge
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

One of Josef's clients has admitted that a friend of his named Titorelli has told him that Josef is on trial; Josef decides to visit Titorelli, a painter who paints portraits of court officials. Titorelli is confused about why Josef has come, though he still shows Josef his paintings, including a portrait of the judge, which features a depiction of the figures of Justice and Victory mixed into one. In this passage, Josef points out that the combination makes it looks as if Justice's scales are tipped, which would symbolize unfair judgment; Titorelli, indifferent, responds that he only paints what he is told to paint. 

The portrait of the Judge is a perfect representation of the corrupt and skewed legal system. Titorelli's attempt to fuse the symbols for Justice and Victory show how far the law has strayed from the aim of delivering fair, unbiased judgment to citizens; after all, if the aim of the law is victory, this prohibits the courts from acting impartially. Furthermore, Titorelli's reason for painting the portrait in this way proves how the law came to be so unjust in the first place. When questioned by Josef, Titorelli responds that he simply follows orders, showing that when people mindlessly obey authority without using their own rational judgment, the outcome will be a system that is nonsensical and absurd. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

Then the priest shouted down at K., ‘Can’t you see even two steps in front of you?’ It was shouted angrily, but at the same time as if by a person who can see someone falling and shouts out automatically, throwing caution to the winds because he is horrified himself.

Related Characters: The Prison Chaplain (speaker), Josef K.
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

Josef has been assigned to give a high-level partner of the bank a tour of the city's cathedral; however, having arrived, he finds out that this story was a ruse designed by the prison chaplain, who collaborated with the bank to lure Josef to the church. The chaplain tells Josef his case is going badly, and when Josef insists that there is still hope, the priest angrily shouts "Can't you see even two steps in front of you?". This is one of many instances when authority figures furiously reprimand Josef for his behavior, implying that his conduct is naïve. Yet it remains frustratingly ambiguous whether or not this is true. 

On the one hand, Josef's refusal to accept that his trial is going badly shows he is deliberately ignoring almost everything he has learned about the legal system. It certainly seems that Josef is indulging in arrogance by believing that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, he has a chance of being acquitted. At the same time, the alternative option would be resigning himself both to his own fate and to the unfair and unchecked power of the law, as Block has done. Josef has witnessed that taking a position results in a kind of relentless stagnation. 

The chaplain's accusation that Josef can't see "even two steps in front" of himself therefore conveys both the naïveté and necessity of Josef's continued hope. It may be unwise and even arrogant to retain a sense of optimism, yet the alternative is even worse.  

The court does not want anything from you. It receives you when you come and dismisses you when you go.

Related Characters: The Prison Chaplain (speaker), Josef K.
Related Symbols: The Prison Chaplain’s Parable
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

The prison chaplain has finished his parable, and Josef has remarked that it conveys a distinctly depressing view of the world. Josef asks if the chaplain wants him to do anything else, to which the chaplain replies that the court doesn't want anything from Josef; "it receives you when you come and dismisses you when you go." This comment echoes Josef's own observation earlier in the novel that the law is like an organism that is "eternally in balance," immune to the actions of any individual. Both descriptions turn the law into an organic, living being, yet portray it as completely indifferent, making any interaction with the law a distinctly one-sided experience that only isolates and alienates people further. 

The chaplain's statement that "the court doesn't want anything from you" also contradicts common sense understandings of what the law is and does. The law ostensibly exists in order to encourage certain kinds of behavior and discourage others; thus the notion that the law is self-sufficient and uninterested in human behavior shows just how far from the idea of justice the law has become. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

Then Fräulein Bürstner appeared in the square, coming up a small set of steps from a lower street. It wasn’t quite certain that it was her, though the similarity was great. But K. wasn’t bothered whether it was definitely Fräulein Bürstner or not, it was just that he immediately became aware of the futility of his resistance. There was nothing heroic about his resistance, about making things difficult for the two men, about trying to enjoy the last semblance of life as he defended himself.

Related Characters: Josef K., Fraulein Burstner
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

It is Josef's thirty-first birthday, and he has been forcefully taken from his apartment by two well-dressed men and marched into a town square. In the square, Josef notices a woman who appears to be Fraulein Burstner, although he isn't sure. As he looks, he realizes he doesn't care whether it is her or not, and is suddenly overwhelmed by a more general feeling of indifference over what happens to him. He decides that "there was nothing heroic about his resistance," which is completely futile and only makes life more difficult for him. This marks a shift in Josef's attitude. Not only has he completely lost all optimism and desire to influence his trial, he finally seems able to "see two feet in front of him" and accept that he is being slowly marched to his death. 

On the one hand, Josef's indifference to Fraulein Burstner's identity can be seen as the result of a year of exhaustion, struggle, and frustration which has led him to accept the inevitability of defeat. At the same time, recall that during his interaction with Fraulein Burstner at the beginning of the novel he did not seem particularly concerned with who she was as an individual either. He admitted that he did not know her very well, and seemed more excited by having an audience for the reenactment of his arrest than by engaging with Fraulein Burstner as a person. It is therefore possible to interpret the events of the novel as simply confirming Josef's pre-existing alienation and disinterest in others, rather than creating it. 

I’m grateful that I’ve been given these two half-mute, uncomprehending men to accompany me on my way and it’s been left to me to tell myself everything that is needful.

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker)
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Still being forcefully walked along by the two men, Josef has given up all hope of resistance, and vowed only to cling onto his logical understanding of the world until he dies. He tells himself he is lucky to be accompanied by two men who aren't saying anything, so he can think everything over. This passage presents the experience of solitude in ambiguous terms. Throughout the novel, people have been depicted as profoundly alienated from one another, unable to properly empathize or connect. Meanwhile, Josef's experience of his trial has further isolated him from others. While so far this has been shown to be almost wholly negative, in this passage Josef finds solace in his own mind and in fact feels grateful to be left alone with his thoughts, a detail that suggests there may be some positive sides to isolation. 

His eye fell on the top storey of the house beside the quarry. Like a flash of light, the two casements of a window parted and a human figure, faint and thin from the distance and height, leant far out in one swift movement then stretched its arms out even farther. Who was it? A friend? A kind person? Someone who felt for him? Someone who wanted to help? Was it just one? Or all of them? Was help still possible? Were there still objections he’d forgotten? Of course there were. Logic may be unshakeable, but it cannot hold out against a human being who wants to live. Where was the judge he had never seen? Where was the high court he had never reached?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

Josef has continued being marched along by the two well-dressed men, at one point even helping them to evade an encounter with a policeman. The men have led him to a quarry next to a single house and politely asked him to remove his coat and shirt, before handing him a knife. The police want Josef to stab himself with the knife, but he hesitates, noticing a person in the house with outstretched arms and briefly wondering if they could be "a friend" or "a kind person."

Although up until this point Josef has been determined to accept the reality that the court is all-powerful and not to die clinging to the mistaken delusion that there is any hope of justice, in this passage he relents and finds himself hoping that someone will help him or that he might finally understand the law. He observes that no matter how committed he is to logical thinking, this desire cannot withstand the desperate situation he has found himself in, of wanting to live while knowing he is about to die. 

Like many other parts of the novel, it is ambiguous whether this last glimmer of hope represents a positive interpretation of the nature of humanity or not. On one hand, perhaps the fact that despite everything, Josef still manages to retain a tiny sliver of optimism about the possibility of justice and solidarity shows the resilience of the human spirit. Alternatively, however, this moment can be seen as a final, resounding failure, as Josef has not managed to achieve the only consolation he found within his terrible fate, which was his vow to die without deluding himself about reality.


‘Like a dog!’ he said. It seemed as if his shame would live on after him.

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker)
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

On a rock by the quarry, Josef has been stabbed in the chest by one of the well-dressed men while the other grasps his throat. He begins to lose consciousness, but can see the men looking at his face as he dies. Josef exclaims "Like a dog!" and, in the final line of the novel, expresses the thought that his shame will live on after him. The ending of the novel conveys an unequivocally dark view of Josef's character and fate. He dies alone, with no witnesses apart from his executioners and no indication that anyone really cares about the injustice of what has happened to him. Indeed, his death is so undignified that Josef himself proclaims he has lost his humanity and been reduced to the status of a dog. 

There is no moral or meaning to be found in Josef's death; it is both absurd and assumedly unexceptional, due to the seemingly limitless power of the law over the lives and deaths of citizens. Indeed, the only legacy Josef leaves behind is his shame, implying that he is connected to the rest of the world only through his degradation and humiliation. 

Get the entire The Trial LitChart as a printable PDF.
The trial.pdf.medium

Josef K. Character Timeline in The Trial

The timeline below shows where the character Josef K. appears in The Trial. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
One morning, Josef K.’s breakfast does not arrive at the usual time. He is surprised by this unprecedented... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef exits his room anyway, hoping to speak to his landlady, Frau Grubach. He finds a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The policemen continue to talk, and Josef tries to analyze his position, calculating the costs and benefits of each possible response. Because... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef asks the men to produce an arrest warrant. The men respond that they cannot answer... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Suddenly, the men yell to Josef that their supervisor wants to see him. The police insist that Josef put on his... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The supervisor tells Josef that he may leave for his job at the bank. They tensely part ways, and... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
After work, Josef usually takes a walk and goes to a pub with his colleagues; once a week,... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
On his way out of Frau Grubach’s room, Josef asks about Fraulein Burstner’s whereabouts. Grubach tells him that the young woman hasn’t yet returned... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef waits until 11:30, when Fraulein Burstner arrives. She invites him into her room, where Josef... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef comforts Fraulein Burstner, who is concerned about the disturbance he has caused. Impulsively, he showers... (full context)
Chapter 2
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
At work, Josef receives a phone call informing him that the first of many frequent cross-examinations of his... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
That Sunday, Josef awakes groggily; he had been out drinking the past night. Though he does not know... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The building itself is a sprawling complex. There are many stairwells to choose from, and Josef is irked that he was not given more precise directions to the room of his... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Josef works his way up the stairs, walking through a group of children at play. As... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef knocks on a door, and a young woman washing children’s clothing motions him into a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The man, who appears to be a judge, informs Josef that he no longer has an obligation to hear his case, but that he will... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef tells the judge that his uninformed question suggests that the proceedings against him are careless... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
In response to Josef’s insolence, the judge rocks back and forth in his chair. The previously divided crowd has... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef jumps down from the podium. He looks at the crowd anxiously and begins to doubt... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef spends the next week waiting for another court summons, and is aghast when none arrives.... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The woman flirtatiously offers to help Josef with his trial. He asks her to show him the judge’s books, and she obliges,... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The woman then warns Josef that the amorous law student, Berthold, is watching them. Sure enough, the man stands in... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef lingers in the room while the woman and the student talk. After some time, the... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The student carries the woman away. Josef understands this altercation as the first genuine setback he has suffered thus far, and realizes... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The court usher enters the room and introduces himself to Josef, whom he recognizes as a defendant. The usher confesses that his superiors constantly abuse his... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The usher has to report to the law office, and asks if Josef would like to join him. Josef comes along, and the usher leads him into a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef continues along the corridor, with the usher following behind him. Suddenly, he begins to feel... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The woman tells Josef that he cannot stay sitting where he is, and asks a well-dressed man to bring... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The woman introduces the man as the official information-giver, and together, the two lead Josef out of the offices. On the way, the woman explains to Josef that neither she... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Finally, they reach the door to the outside, and Josef is so weak that he hardly realizes that he can leave. He is revitalized by... (full context)
Chapter 4
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef goes to great lengths to find Fraulein Burstner, but is unsuccessful. He even writes her... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sunday marks the fifth day since Frau Grubach angered Josef, and he has not spoken to her since. That morning, Frau Grubach brings Josef his... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The maid informs Josef that Fraulein Montag has sent for him. He goes to Montag’s room, and she tersely... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef thanks Fraulein Montag and gets up to leave. Just as he reaches the door, Frau... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
After he leaves Fraulein Montag and Captain Lanz, Josef realizes that he has an opportunity to confront Fraulein Burstner alone. He checks to see... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The room is empty, and has been completely rearranged. As he leaves Fraulein Burstner’s room, Josef notices Fraulein Montag and the Captain conversing in the dining room. They glance at him... (full context)
Chapter 5
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Several days later, Josef prepares to return home after staying at the office well into the evening. As he... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Franz and Willem explain to Josef that they are being punished because Josef condemned their behavior during his hearing. Josef counters... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Willem protests against the cane-wielder’s words, saying that he is only being punished because of Josef’s complaints. Moreover, Willem adds, Josef has ruined the policemen’s career prospects. Willem’s interruption is punished... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef offers to pay the cane-wielder not to hit the policemen, but the man declines on... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Franz begins to make horrible noises as he suffers under the cane, and Josef promptly leaves the room. He tells a coworker not to worry about the noise, and... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef stews with anxiety about the policemen’s predicament, but convinces himself that Franz’s screaming forced his... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The next day, Josef’s thoughts are dominated by the anguished policemen. That evening, he revisits the room where they... (full context)
Chapter 6
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef is visited at work by his uncle Karl, a landowner from the country. Josef had... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
...possibility that it will disgrace the family. Karl offers to help however he can, but Josef dismisses his uncle’s concerns calmly. This nonchalance only agitates Karl further. (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Karl takes Josef to meet his friend, a defense lawyer named Herr Huld. At Huld’s house, his maid,... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The office director enters the conversation but speaks only to the older men, ignoring Josef completely. Josef thinks he recognizes the director from the front row of his hearing. (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Suddenly, the conversation is interrupted by the sound of shattering porcelain. Josef leaves to investigate the noise. He finds Leni, who confesses that she destroyed a plate... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Leni asks Josef if he has a lover, and he shows her a picture of Elsa. Leni criticizes... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
When Josef leaves, Leni gives him a key and tells him to return whenever he wishes. Outside,... (full context)
Chapter 7
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
On a winter morning, Josef worries that his lawyer, Herr Huld, is doing nothing to help him. Josef has come... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Although Josef is extremely tired, he realizes that he must play a more decisive role in his... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
As Josef grows more disheartened and more distracted, he realizes that he has kept a number of... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The deputy director of the bank enters Josef’s office. The manufacturer criticizes Josef’s unwillingness to conduct business, and Josef can only stare pathetically... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Now alone, Josef worries about the burden he has assumed by taking responsibility for his own defense in... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef accepts a letter of recommendation and Titorelli’s address from the manufacturer. He decides to visit... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Josef makes his way to Titorelli’s neighborhood, which is located near the courts. The painter’s building... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Titorelli reads the letter from the manufacturer, but still does not seem to understand why Josef has come. The painter asks Josef if he is interested in buying paintings, and Josef... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Titorelli explains his knowledge of the court. If Josef is to be acquitted, the painter says, it can happen in one of three ways:... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
As Josef grows increasingly uncomfortable in the stifling air of the poorly-ventilated apartment, Titorelli explains the apparent... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Josef is disappointed to hear that it is essentially impossible for a defendant to regain his... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
To avoid the girls outside, Titorelli leads Josef out the back door. Josef is shocked to discover that this door leads to a... (full context)
Chapter 8
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
After much deliberation, Josef decides that he will no longer retain his lawyer. Late that night, Josef goes to... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
...bearded man introduces himself as Block. He is a tradesman and a client of Huld’s. Josef’s control of this conversation makes him feel like he is speaking with an inferior person... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The men come upon Leni making soup in the lawyer’s kitchen. Josef interrogates Leni about her relationship to Block, but she flatteringly assures him that he has... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Josef asks Block about his case. Block begins to prattle about his business and his trial.... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
...states that a defendant’s verdict can be ascertained by looking at his lips, and that Josef’s lips indicated a swift conviction. Block, however, thinks this superstition is nonsense. (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
Leni returns to the kitchen to tell Josef that Huld is waiting for him. Josef presses Block to continue speaking, but he seems... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Leni shows Josef the cramped room that Block sleeps in, and the merchant’s pathetic presence is suddenly too... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
In his office, Huld chastises Josef for keeping him waiting. Josef responds coldly. Noticing his maid’s behavior, Huld tells Josef that... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef announces his plan to withdraw Huld’s representation. The lawyer is taken aback and even gets... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Josef asks Huld what action he would take if Josef retained him. Huld simply replies that... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef protests Huld’s treatment of Block, but Block is insulted and lashes out at Josef. Block... (full context)
Chapter 9
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
An important Italian partner of the bank is visiting the city, and Josef is assigned to show him around. Though this would ordinarily be an honor to Josef,... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The day before the tour, Josef reviews Italian grammar late into the night. The next morning, Josef arrives early, hoping to... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Through the morning, Josef struggles to learn the vocabulary he will need to tour the cathedral. He receives a... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef is worried that he may arrive late, but reaches the cathedral at the stroke of... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
As Josef studies a small pulpit in the corner, he notices a priest preparing to give a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The priest reveals that he is the prison chaplain, and that he had Josef summoned to the church in order to speak with him. The chaplain tells Josef his... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef asks the chaplain to descend from the pulpit, and the priest agrees, having fulfilled his... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Josef responds that the man has clearly been cheated, and the chaplain tells him this conclusion... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
After extensive discussion, the chaplain asks Josef if he wants to leave. Though Josef hadn’t considered leaving, he remembers his position at... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
On the eve of Josef’s thirty-first birthday, two men in coats pay an unexpected visit to Josef’s apartment. Josef inexplicably... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The men reach an empty town square, decorated with flowers. Just as Josef makes up his mind to walk no further, he spots Fraulein Burstner, or a woman... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The group passes over a bridge and Josef glances nostalgically at some benches where he had once rested. He is quickly embarrassed when... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
A policeman approaches Josef and his escorts. Josef forces his escorts to continue walking, and even breaks into a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The men prop Josef on a rock by the quarry and remove his coat and shirt. They behave bizarrely... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef raises his arms, but one of the men clasps his throat while the other thrusts... (full context)