The Trial


Franz Kafka

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The Prison Chaplain’s Parable Symbol Analysis

The Prison Chaplain’s Parable Symbol Icon
In the cathedral, the prison chaplain tells Josef a parable taken from the opening pages of the Law. In the parable, a man from the country tries to gain access to the law, but is forbidden by a doorkeeper, who is just the first of many doorkeepers, each of which is more powerful than the one before. The man waits outside for years. Just as the man is about to die of old age, the doorkeeper closes the gate, telling the man it was meant just for him. This allegory symbolizes the absurdity of the legal system, the multiple gatekeepers suggests a connection to the bureaucracy and the fact that no one in the bureaucracy holds ultimate authority or can even access that authority, and Josef’s unsuccessful attempts to decipher the meaning of the parable illustrate the unresolvable ambiguities of the Law.

The Prison Chaplain’s Parable Quotes in The Trial

The The Trial quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Prison Chaplain’s Parable. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of The Trial published in 2009.
Chapter 9 Quotes

I am only accepting this so you will not think there is something you have omitted to do.

Related Characters: The Doorkeeper (speaker)
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

No one else could be granted entry here, because this entrance was intended for you alone. I shall now go and shut it.

Related Characters: The Doorkeeper (speaker)
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

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.
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Prison Chaplain’s Parable Symbol Timeline in The Trial

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Prison Chaplain’s Parable appears in The Trial. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
The chaplain recounts a parable given in the law, in which a man from the country tries to gain access... (full context)