Category Archives: The Trial

Joseph’s Trial vs Bigger’s Trial

(Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t yet reached the trial portion of Native Son, better not read this one!)

Have you had enough of trials yet, fellow reader?   I hear that our next book involves one too, so, I hope not!

Let’s do a little comparison and contrast.   I noticed some interesting similarities and differences.   Maybe you can add to my list

Both trials are unfair (but for different reasons).  Both illustrate the impossibility of fairness on the part of the judicial system.  Both utterly confuse the defendant.    Both result in the same outcome for the defendant.

Kafka never reveals exactly what crime Joseph is guilty of, while in Native Son, Bigger confesses to his crimes and pleads guilty.   The readers are always kept guessing in Joseph’s trial process, while in Bigger’s, we know clearly what is happening.   I don’t know about you, but I felt a little implicated in Bigger’s trial, while in Joseph’s, I didn’t feel even a shadow of guilt.

I did find it interesting that we read a book that hypothesized about the inability of the judicial system to provide a fair trial (Kafka), and then immediately after read a convincing case in point (Wright).

I’d love to hear your thoughts, readers!   Put on your black judicial robes and chime in!

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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Native Son, The Trial



We're right back where we started.  This is the same illustration that was used for chapter one.

We’re right back where we started. This is the same illustration that was used for chapter one.

Chapter 10: The chapter is titled “The End”.  It’s not only the end of the story; it’s the end of Joseph K.  A year has passed.  Two men come, escort Joseph out of town and kill him.

230 pages later– I have more questions than when I started.

My copy of the text includes unfinished chapters (which I did not read), passages deleted by the author (which I did read), excerpts from Kafka’s diaries ( I skipped), and three postscripts by Max Brod (I skimmed).

I learned from the postscripts Kafka wanted his work to be destroyed upon his death.  Max Brod told Kakfa that he wouldn’t.  Brod was convinced that Kafka understood he was serious about ignoring the man’s last request.  After Kafka’s death Brod went ahead with the publication of The Trial.  Brod was the person who put the chapters in order, and years later Max believed that Kafka intended for the fifth chapter to be the second chapter.  Kafka never wanted Joseph K’s trial to go to a highest court.  He only wanted to prolong the events.

Now.  How to answer the wrap-up questions.  Did you try?  Did you retitle the story?  Did you feel sympathy for any characters?  Did you discuss themes and motifs?

Why is this book a classic?  It’s not even finished!

I did some reading online.  I found this quote on Sparknotes.

“…it is Kafka’s description of the struggle to find meaning in a cosmos he knew to be meaningless that makes his work the gateway to modern literature.”


Posted by on August 16, 2013 in The Trial


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The Trial is trying.

The Trial chpt 7Chapter 7: All of Joseph K.’s legal records are not accessible to him or the public, and all proceedings are kept secret.  One of the paragraphs in this chapter took twelve pages.  Twelve!  J.K. toys with the idea of firing his attorney.  A manufacturer sends J.K. to the painter.  Young, scary, bratty, promiscuous girls spy on his conversation.  Painter presents three possibilities: delay, ostensible acquittal, and definite acquittal.  Unfortunately a definite acquittal is not an option for J.K, who ends up buying three of the painters terrible heathscapes.

My copy of the text repeats Kafka's drawings for the last chapters.

My copy of the text repeats Kafka’s drawings for the last chapters.

Chapter 8: Why is the lawyer’s home always so dark?   I’m confused whether J.K. dismisses his lawyer or not.  Block begs.  Huld manipulates.  Leni lies.

The chapter is incomplete.  Can this be?  What was Max Brod thinking?

We're right back where we started.  This is the same illustration that was used for chapter one.

We’re right back where we started. This is the same illustration that was used for chapter one.

Chapter 9: The bank tasks J.K. with taking an Italian on a cathedral tour.  The tourist is a no-show.  The priest knows J.K.’s case and tells a parable.

I am bemused by the bizarre, bewildering, book.  How will it end?


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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in The Trial


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More confusion

The Trial chpt 4

Chapter 4: What is up with J.K.’s infatuation with Fräulein Bürstner?

The Trial chpt 5

Chapter 5: Is Joseph crazy?  Is this a dream?  There are men in the lumber room of K’s bank: the whipper and the two wardens.  Why?  The wardens are in trouble for their behavior at Joseph’s arrest and the whipper is there to do what whippers do best.

The Trial chpt 6

Chapter 6: Joseph has relatives.  His uncle shows up to give him advice and then drags him to his ill lawyer friend.  There are more snapping teeth.  This time they belong to nurse Leni; she bites Joseph K. to get his attention.  Her tactic works and the two spend time together which further ruins Joseph’s hopes for a positive case.

I am bewildered by this book.

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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in The Trial


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It’s not a dream

I suppose there are people who are arrested on their thirtieth birthday, but I imagine that most of them know with what crime they are being charged.

Chapter 1: No one seems to understand Joseph K’s legal troubles; not his landlady, not his wardens, not Joseph himself.  Maybe the Captain sleeping in the next room does, but if so, Kafka’s not telling.

Chapter 2: What would it be like to report to a court room without directions or an appointment time?

When Joseph makes it past the washerwoman, he explains the unusualness of his case.  The crowd seems moved but they are all wearing badges.  What does that mean?  The magistrate says J.K.’s behavior has taken away his own advantages.  How can this be?

The Trial chpt 3

Chapter 3: At his next trip to be interrogated, the room is empty.  The law books are full of obscene pictures.  The married washerwoman is carried away by a student with snapping teeth.

The usher leads Joseph to where other accused men sit waiting.  Waiting for what?  Joseph becomes faint but when taken to fresh air the clerks begin to feel ill.

Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe this book.

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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in The Trial


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Returning to The Trial

I shared on Facebook that I finished The Trial on July 27th.  Whew!  Finally.
But I’m still pondering what it all means.
When someone says, “How Kafkaesque!” in conversation, do I know exactly what she means?

This week I’m rereading my journal and scanning over my copy of the book (which I got out of the freebie box at the library’s annual book sale.  What does that say about Kafka?).

Back to my copy of the classic…  It’s this one.The Trial

The Trial: The Definitive Edition
Introduction by George Steiner
Translated from the German by Will and Edwin Muir
Revised, and with additional material translated by E.M. Butler.
Drawings by Franz Kafka
Schocken Books, New York 1992

Did you catch that?  Drawings by Franz Kafka.
Let me show you.Trial chpt 1

I failed in my attempt to find additional information about the drawings.  The Trial chpt 2

But I am inclined to make this sketch my new gravatar photo.  It perfectly depicts how I felt while reading The Trial.

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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in The Trial


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The Verdict

Trial Check-In

The three of us at “A Classic Case of Madness” are finished with Kafka’s The Trial.  I was the caboose, closing the book just yesterday.

Where are you in the story?  Please share you place in the comments.

If you have successfully completed the novel, you may…

1. Read something less bewildering for fun.
2. Brag that you read Kafka over your summer break.
3. Be thankful for the U.S. judicial system.
4. Watch this cinematic version of the story.  Anthony Hopkins plays the priest.
5. Remember to do your WEM wrap-up questions.
6. Search for a copy of our next title: book twenty-two–Richard Wright’s Native Son.

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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in The Trial


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Been There

On the other hand, there are also dark moments, such as everyone has, when you think you’ve achieved nothing at all, when it seems that the only trials to come to a good end are those that were determined to have a good end from the start and would do so without any help, while all the others are lost despite all the running to and fro, all the effort, all the little apparent successes that give such joy.

Yep, I’ve had days like this where I’ve felt powerless and helpless.   (Not good for a primogeniture!)   I bet that Joseph was feeling this way throughout the novel.   Perhaps this sheds a little light on the ending.

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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in The Trial


Still on Trial

Trial Check-In

Ack!  I can’t believe I missed a hebdomadal review.  To quote our friend Ruth at Experiment with the Well-Educated Mind, “Life is so distracting.”

I’m still pluggin’ along.  What is with the abysmally long paragraphs in The Trial?  My mom is visiting.  Last night while I was reading, she peeked over my shoulder and asked, “Is the whole book one long paragraph?”  Sometimes it feels that way.

Tell me I’m not the only person left reading!  I’m being tried by The Trial.

Please share you place in the comments.


Posted by on July 24, 2013 in The Trial


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Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

Apparently Kafka never read that particular nursery rhyme.   Or perhaps he had issues with his mother.   Maybe he was spurned by his true love.   All I can say is that something happened to the guy that tainted his opinion of women in general.   Of course, the only way I can surmise this is from viewing the women in The Trial.   What is with these women?

In Chapter One we run into his landlady, Mrs. Grubach.   Her relationship with Joseph is perhaps the most normal or appropriate one.   He is angered by her “betrayal” in Chapter One, but does eventually apologize. She comes off as weak and confused, but at least she doesn’t seem to find Joseph attractive and throw herself at him like most of the other women.

Miss Burstner is his neighbor across the hall.   Joseph goes to great lengths to stay on her good side, and is angered at the intrusion into her apartment, almost more so than the intrusion into his own.   Weird.   He grabs her and kisses her soundly after a late-night apology.

Then there is the trampy wife of the court usher he has a conversation with in Chapter Three as he’s trying to find the court.   She offers to let Joseph do whatever he wants with her (which he decides to take advantage of), but then she goes off with someone else, leaving Joseph disappointed, but trying not to show it.

There is a brief encouter in Chapter Four with a Miss Montag, the French teacher, who is moving in with Miss Burstner.   He really wants to see Miss B, so is angered by this “pale, febrile” woman who limps about the place moving her things and tells him that Miss B. doesn’t want to see him at all.

While meeting with his uncle’s lawyer in Chapter Six, he leaves abruptly and makes out with the maid, Leni, even after sharing with her the picture of his lover, Elsa, a barmaid.   Leni doesn’t seem to care, and continues throwing herself at Joseph.

We also meet a really odd teen girl gang hanging around the artist’s residence, proving generally annoying to everyone.

The women in this novel seem to be generally low-class, are powerless to change anything, are treated like pawns, and have no qualms about throwing themselves at Joseph.  Sexual behavior seems almost a release for both parties, with no significance attached.   Their behavior is often confusing at best, mimicking the plot of the novel.  I agree with Christine – I miss Jane.


Posted by on July 23, 2013 in The Trial


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