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The Trial
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1001 Monthly Book Club > June {2011} Discussion -- THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka

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Charity (bigbookslut) | 569 comments Mod
Let the discussion...BEGIN!!


Silver | 285 comments One of the things which struck out at me in reading this book, and I do not know if this is only my own personal impression or if it was Kafka's intent to portray this way, and if that is so, I do not know just what the message being conveyed by doing so is yet.

But that despite the fact that K is being unjustly persecuted, and the wrongness of what is being done to him, and how while the situation he is in is a sympathetics one, and he is the victim. K himself I never found to be a sympathetic character. I never really felt myself truly rooting for him. There were even moments where it was kind of like, yeah ok maybe he does deserve to be arrested.

Perhaps this book means to question the idea of "innocence" and just what it truly means to be innocence, if in fact any one can ever be innocent, and if such a thing as innocence in fact actually exists. Maybe "The Trail" is meant as a way for one to examine thier own lives and question thier own belief in thier innocence, and explore the ways in which they may not in fact be as innocent as they once believed.

Maybe K is guilty for his lack of ability to acknowledge his own faults, and the possible wrongs he may in fact have committed in his life. He is over confident in the belief of his own innocence.


Leonard (LeonardSeet) | 23 comments Silver wrote: "Perhaps this book means to question the idea of "innocence" and just what it truly means to be innocence, if in fact any one can ever be innocent, and if such a thing as innocence in fact actually exists. Maybe "The Trail" is meant as a way for one to examine thier own lives and question thier own belief in thier innocence, and explore the ways in which they may not in fact be as innocent as they once believed."

The question of the innocence of K is a key to this text. When we see that K was accused of an undisclosed crime, based on a hidden law, by an unreachable court, we at first become shocked or tickled by such a nightmare. But then we begin to realize that our biases, prejudices and presumptions are those of K and that to the court administrators, K was the lunatic whose delusion had clouded his eyes.

We created natural laws to rein in protons and electrons; we created civil laws to rein in John and Jane; we created ecclesiastical canons to rein in God. Then we organized these "absolute truths" to rein in our fears, hopes and humanity. Then we read The Trial and realize that we've been creating these "absolute truths."


Silver | 285 comments In reading this book I could not help but notice certain similarities between it and "The Metamorphosis" particularly interesting, is the way in both cases we have these individuals who awaken to suddenly find thier lives irrevocably changed overnight, and discover that thier lives have been turned completely upside down.

There are certain common factors between K and Gregor, in both cases they are isolated individuals whose whole existence seems to center around thier work so I cannot help but wonder if there is also something about industrialism being said here.

K is a man living alone and does not seem to have anyone really close in his life, when he does find himself within this sudden predicament there are no friends of whom he turns to or confides. There seems to be no one present to offer him support. He ends up having to rely upon what seems to be the rather unreliable assistance of a variety of different strangers.

And we can see in his varrious interactions with other people how he does appear to be socially inept and does not seem to truly know how to speak to people or respond to them properly. He looses his temper, or becomes frantic.

In addition, during the episode of his trail we do not see any evidence of his having any life outside of his work. Much in the same was as Gregor in "The Metamorphosis" one of his first concerns upon his realization of his predicament is what is going to happen with his job and if he will be able to get to work and continue his job.

So in consequence his life has become not worth living because he has fallen into the rut of drudgery and perhaps the Trail was the way for him to try and break free of the shackles which he had placed upon himself.


Ellie (EllieArcher) K and Gregor also spend their lives thinking of themselves as "good" only to discover that this is ultimately a meaningless label, at least when it comes from living an inauthentic life. Once Gregor is no longer useful to his family, they push him away and everyone in fact becomes more functional than when he was "saving" them. And K's biggest "crime" as far as I can tell is that he has no authentic life or even self at all and words like love or good become meaningless.

But in rereading The Trial I am struck again by how hilarious I find it, even the second time, in a very scary way, perhaps.

Am I the only one laughing?


Silver | 285 comments Ellie wrote: But in rereading The Trial I am struck again by how hilarious I find it, even the second time, in a very scary way, perhaps.

Am I the only one laughing?
."


The Metamorphosis I thought was hysterical when I read it, but somehow "The Trail" did not strike me in the same way. While I enjoyed reading it, I think that it just seemed a little dry to me, and though it was quite absurd, and ridiculous, and I enjoyed the sureal elements, it did not quite tickle my fancy. Perhaps part of the reason was becasue I did find K himself to be a bit irksome.


Ellie (EllieArcher) And I did not find Metamorphosis funny the first time I read it-& I found both Gregor & K annoying even while I feel sorry for them. Not to mention, they each exemplify my own tiniest touch of self-pitying martyr-complex to an (of course enormously) magnified degree.


Mike | 77 comments Well, I didn't like The Trial. Basically, I think Kafka wondered one day how a society and its citizens would act if people were all of a sudden arrested. Then as the book describes, no accusations are made, the interrogations and court proceedings are a sham, and the lawyers can't and don't do anything. Alot of it sounds like a "catch 22". This is one of Kafka's best works?


Denae (whimsicalmeerkat) I find it interesting that K seems to be largely alone in his ignorance of this court or its workings. Everyone else seems to have an idea what is happening.


Silver | 285 comments Mike wrote: "Well, I didn't like The Trial. Basically, I think Kafka wondered one day how a society and its citizens would act if people were all of a sudden arrested. Then as the book describes, no accusati..."

I would caution against reading the story too literally. In fact I think a case can be made that the entire of the trail was all taking place within K's own mind, and that it was an expression of his disaffection with the current state of his life, and perhaps his subconscious trying to send him a message that he needs to evaluate his current state of his life.


Ellie (EllieArcher) I love The Trial. I think it's a chillingly accurate depiction of a certain psychological state as well as working on the level of what it feels like to be enmeshed in bureaucracy. There are times I feel exactly like K when dealing with large institutions-unfairly, inhumanly treated while at the same time (while I'm moaning about my innocence) feeling a vague sense of guilt. Guilt about my personal flaws that put me in whatever position I'm in while still feeling unfairly persecuted. It's possible to feel both things simultaneously. It's possible, I think, to be both things simultaneously: guilty and innocent. Nobody is entirely innocent; nobody deserves the treatment K gets. But as a member of society, K is willing to allow others to be treated unfairly-given what was to happen in his country within a few years, even the literal level is hardly outrageous. But the story is so much more than that.

As Silver says I think that the story is primarily a psychological one but I think it diminishes it as much to make it purely psychological as it would to completely externalize it. I think it's Kafka's brilliance that both can operate at the same time.


Stewart | 63 comments I absolutely loved this book when I read it a couple of years ago. It was not what I thought it would be. At the time I recorded my thought thus;



I don't know anything about Kafka. I read Metamorphosis recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had developed an understanding of the word Kafkaesque over the years, presumably by contextual inference (if there is such a thing) since I hadn't read any Kafka.

I suppose that is the first thing that struck me about this novel; that it did not quite fit in with my (mis)understanding of Kafkaesque.

My Penguin Modern Classics edition has a quote on the cover from the Daily Telegraph "This compelling, prophetic novel, anticipates the insanity of modern bureaucracy". I don't think that this is what the book is about at all. I had expected a man railing against the system in some sort of bureaucratic dystopia a la 1984. In fact for the first half of the book I imagined K as John Hurt's Winston Smith in the 1984 film (was it released in 1984?). The more I read, however, the more it seemed that the book was not about an oppressive state, or legal system, not a sociological treatise nor a prophetic warning. It seemed to me to be much much to do with the internal, than the external.

It is of course true that K finds himself caught up in a legal bureaucracy he can not understand or effectively combat, but this is Kafka, not Orwell.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic the supposition that K's predicament relates to the internal since he does not seem to have much of an internal life. Yes we see him thinking to a certain degree but his thoughts, feelings and motivations seem to me to be very superficially dealt with. There seems to be very little, if any, development; things happen, then more things happen and then - wouldn't you know it- some more things happen. In particular, I don't think we are given any insight into how K changed from someone who makes such an indignant fuss at the start when disturbed in his bed by the visitors, and continued to "fight his case" throughout the length of the book to someone who, apparently in full knowledge of what was to happen, quietly goes of with the two top-hatted gentlemen at the end. So, not a lot of discussion of K's internal life.

I was struck by how polite everyone is. The court officials seem to be going out of there way to make things easy for K. K is concerned not to offend people. He frequently has an outburst - or what amounts to an outburst for him - then then backpeddles and tries to smooth things out. He is very concerned about what people think of him, how he is seen at the bank. This suggests to me that rather than being about bureaucracy or dystopia the book is more about social expectations, fitting in / not fitting in, avoiding social gaffs, treading with trepidation in fear of embarrassing blunders. I was reminded of metamorphosis where the concern, after turning into a cockroach (was it a cockroach?) was about what other people would think - social embarrassment.

The next thing that struck me was the woman. All the women, and there are quite a few, are instantly attracted to K, want to help him and have a hard time keeping their hands off him. Mmh?

As I said, I don't know anything about Kafka, his private life or sexual problems. Who was it said that all writer's have problems with women - especially the female ones?

I certainly came away from this book thinking that here was a writer who had problems with women, or perhaps just problems with sex. It seemed to me that this confusing world that K had been thrown into was the world of adult sexuality. Existential angst? No. Just your common or garden sexual angst. He is an adolescent entering a world he doesn't understand, he is frustrated and afraid affecting bravado. He is very conscious of what others think of him, is afraid of showing himself up. Every woman wants him i.e. he wants them, all of them, any of them and like every naughty boy he has to be punished, and he knows it.

I thought there was something seedy about this legal system. It's officials are a bit unpleasant and disreputable, not the sort you would bring home to tea. Yet these people are all over the place, the infest just about every loft. It is just like sex. It is all over the place. Behind every facade that looks out prim and proper on the street there is a whole lot of dirty business going on.

Just a thought.

I was reminded of Monty Python, or rather of Spike Milligan's absurdist humour from the Q series, when K, hearing a noise from behind a door in his office, opens a room he has never been in to find two men about to be whipped, he eventually closes the door and leaves them to it.

Like many of the Q sketches I felt the book ended rather abruptly; a lengthy parable the a quick walk with the top hatters. It felt unfinished to me, a bit rushed. Still if Milligan can eschew the punchline I'm sure Kafka can too.

Certainly a book worth the reading. If it wasn't for the fact that I have sworn not to buy another book till I've finished the ones I've started I would have bought more Kafka. In fact in a moment of weakness I had a couple of books in my hand this very evening, but I put them back on the shelf and left the shop with nothing. As I was leaving the bookshop, without any purchases, I fancied I heard a noise coming from a broom cupboard. My old understanding of kafkaesque would have lead me to suspect that the noise was made by those state employees who have been recording my every move. With my new understanding, however, I realised that it was just two bookshop employees having sex.


Stewart | 63 comments Denae wrote: "I find it interesting that K seems to be largely alone in his ignorance of this court or its workings. Everyone else seems to have an idea what is happening."

I think that is spot on. He is alone, separate, different. There is a world, external to him, within which others seem to function. They seem to know the rules, what is expected. He tries hard to comprehend the legal mores.

I think that the incompressible legal system is a cypher for the social system, the collection of rules about personal social (read sexual) interactions.

It looks to me that K wants to be a part of that system, he wants to fit in, to belong. At the same time he rejects it because it doesn't make sense, it is illogical, it does not work the way that he thinks it should.

I think it is this ambivalence, the emotional need to belong to a system that he intellectually rejects that leads to the inevitable conclusion of the book.


Ellie (EllieArcher) While I think that is true, Stewart, I think that it is as much or more his lack of self-understanding, perhaps lack of self, that leads to the ending. He is forever opening doors to his own unconscious that he is afraid to explore, that he shuts and flees.

And the unconscious will exact its revenge. K is unwilling to know himself, refuses no matter how urgently the unconscious tries to get his attention. He'd rather live with a vague unease, a sense of guilt, the weight of an unlived life than be brave enough to see what he is hiding from himself.

Massive bureaucratic systems in fact demand people who prefer ignorance to self-awareness-or any awareness-in order to function.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "But that despite the fact that K is being unjustly persecuted"

Who says it is unjust? K protests his innocence, but if he does not know what crime he is supposed to have committed how can he know he did not do it?

Have you ever walked down the street and had a police officer walk towards you? When that happens to me I immediately feel guilty. Not that I have done anything wrong of course.

I think K feels guilty in the same sense. Deep down, down where no one else can see, K knows that he is bad, rotten, unworthy of love or respect. He tries hard to join in, to be part of society, play by the rules. When he cannot do it. When he is not accepted, he rails, intellectually, against a system that rejects him. He reasons. He martials all the facts. He works out logically why it is society that is at fault. Methinks he protesteth too much. The problem is not logic, it is emotion.

I think his anxiety is not that he will be convicted of a crime that he did not commit, rather, that he will rightly be exposed as the criminal that he is; that his deepest darkest self, those parts of him about which he, perhaps innately, feels guilty about will be exposed.

This poor man feels rejected and fears that he deserves it.

What he feels so guilty about I am not sure, but guilt felt that strongly is almost invariably related to matters sexual.


Stewart | 63 comments Ellie wrote: "K is unwilling to know himself"
That's interesting; the idea that there is a reality of the self that he is struggling to keep repressed. All the stuff that happens to him is in fact external reality trying to give him a reality check. It is not that he wants to hide what he is from the world, rather, that he wants to continue to hide it from himself.

If that is the case then where does the conflict come from? Why does he not just keep it all down there where it is safe. What is the force which conflicts with his desire to suppression?


Anne (reachannereach) | 87 comments Stewark wrote: " If that is the case then where does the conflict come from? Why does he not just keep it all down there where it is safe. What is the force which conflicts with his desire to suppression? "

He cannot keep it down anymore because he's told over and over that he is guilty. This fits with his own sense of guilt which he has, until now, been able to avoid feeling or thinking about. This creates all kinds of difficulties and symptoms mentioned earlier (anxiety.unease, lack of a sense of self or reality, etc.).


Stewart | 63 comments Anne wrote: "He cannot keep it down anymore because he's told over and over that he is guilty. This fits with his own sense of guilt which he has, until now, been able to avoid feeling or thinking about."

So he's not conflicted. This is not an internal struggle. He feels guilty, but can live with it. The problem comes when the world starts telling him that he is guilty. It is an external problem. It is about what the world is doing to him.

I don't really buy that.

You say, Anne, that the messages that he is guilty fits in with his own feelings of guilt. What did he got to feel guilty about in the first place?

This still looks to me like a story about a man uncomfortable with himself rather than a story of bureaucratic persecution.


message 19: by Stewart (last edited Jun 16, 2011 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stewart | 63 comments Ellie wrote: "While I think that is true, Stewart, I think that it is as much or more his lack of self-understanding, perhaps lack of self, that leads to the ending. He is forever opening doors to his own unconscious that he is afraid to explore, that he shuts and flees.

And the unconscious will exact its revenge. K is unwilling to know himself, refuses no matter how urgently the unconscious tries to get his attention. He'd rather live with a vague unease, a sense of guilt, the weight of an unlived life than be brave enough to see what he is hiding from himself.

Massive bureaucratic systems in fact demand people who prefer ignorance to self-awareness-or any awareness-in order to function."


If that was the case, that he was unwilling to know himself, wouldn't the massive bureaucratic system that prefers ignorance to self awareness reward rather than punish him?


Anne (reachannereach) | 87 comments Stewart wrote: ""So he's not conflicted. This is not an internal struggle. He feels guilty, but can live with it. The problem comes when the world starts telling him that he is guilty. It is an external problem. "

Sure he's conflicted. He was conflicted before the book started, so to speak. Let's say he's a case of classic neurosis, like many of us. We repress all kinds of things that we don't want or can't know from a very early age. We live our lives to the best of our abilities, have anxieties based on these repressed thoughts/feelings, especially when something reminds us of it (tho we don't know that). That's an interaction of the internal world with the external world. If I didn't have to rush now I'd give a better example.

"You say, Anne, that the messages that he is guilty fits in with his own feelings of guilt. What did he got to feel guilty about in the first place?

This still looks to me like a story about a man uncomfortable with himself rather than a story of bureaucratic persecution. "


I don't think we need to know what he's guilty about. And I don't think it's an either/or situation between the individual vs. society with him or anyone.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: "But that despite the fact that K is being unjustly persecuted"

Who says it is unjust? K protests his innocence, but if he does not know what crime he is supposed to have committed h..."


As far as I am concerned it is unjust because he is not formally accused of a crime, nor is their any evidence presented which suggests that K has in fact committed a crime.

Though he me be "guilty" in a more existential sense. As everyone is theoretically guilty of something in some for or another.

But even with that being so, K is being persecuted by the system because he is rendered completely powerless to defend himself and because it is a violation of ones human rights to arrest them without explanation.

You cannot just arrest someone on the assumption that they are probably guilty of something.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: What he feels so guilty about I am not sure, but guilt felt that strongly is almost invariably related to matters sexual."

K certainly does suffer from some form of sexual conflict, or sexual repression. As we see his varrious interactions with him, and how they all do evolve themselves into something of a sexual nature, coupled with his complete awareness and inappropriate way of interacting with them. At the same time his seeming inability to establish any real meaningfulness, or have genuine relationships. He is sexually frustrated and lacks the ability to properly express himself or contain himself.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "he lacks the ability to properly express himself or contain himself. "

He can't let it out and he can't keep it in. Now there's conflict for you :)


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "You cannot just arrest someone on the assumption that they are probably guilty of something. "

Is that not exactly what should happen. The determination of guilt comes after the arrest, not before.

Surley you are not suggesting that it is people who are probably innocent who should be arrested or that peole who are probably guilty should not be arrested and brought to trial.

In any event, I would hope that the book is a bit more than the depiction of an innocent person being harshly treated, the literary equivalent of these Happy Slapping phone video things.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "K certainly does suffer from some form of sexual conflict, or sexual repression. As we see his varrious interactions with him, and how they all do evolve themselves into something of a sexual nature, coupled with his complete awareness and inappropriate way of interacting with them"

Silver, just wondering what was inappropriate about K's interactions with the women he met.


Denae (whimsicalmeerkat) Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: "K certainly does suffer from some form of sexual conflict, or sexual repression. As we see his varrious interactions with him, and how they all do evolve themselves into something of..."

In some ways, his way of interacting with women is largely inappropriate within the context of social norms. That could be said to apply to his methods of interacting with people in general.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: Silver, just wondering what was inappropriate about K's interactions with the women he met."

Well there was his interactions with Mrs. Bürstner and the way in which he waited all night for her to come home, and pressured her into letting him into her room, and persistently would not leave when she asked him to, and than when he finally was about to leave, this woman of whom he barely knows, he begins desperately kissing her, and than continues to try and pursue her when she makes it clear she does not wish to speak to him anymore. She ends up having to get a roommate in order to protect herself from him.


Than there is the woman who was the wife of one of the officials of the court. And though K knows nothing about her, he first begins to make all sorts of judgements and assumptions about her and chastises her, and than he decides he is going to try and run away with her, though the are complete strangers to each other, and becomes angry with her again when she allows herself to be carried off to see the judge.

Than there was Leni, who the first day he meets her he starts making out with her, and than instantly begins to become jealous of her.

He seems incapable of establishing a proper relationship with a woman but throughout his relations with other women seems to swing between the extremes of attracting and irritation. The two seeming to become in twined with each other. It is as if he is both compiled and repulsed by women or by his desires for them.

Also it seems that every woman who he does encounter within the book he sexualizes in some way. With the exception perhaps of Frau Grubach his landlady. With her he seems to have the most "normal" relationship he has with anyone in the book.

Than there is also this unknown woman, who he seemed to have some sort of relationship with and yet at the same time never actually sees her.


message 28: by Stewart (last edited Jun 16, 2011 02:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stewart | 63 comments Goodness! The man sounds depraved. I'll need to reread those passages when I get home.

The question, though, is not what you or I think of his behaviour. Is there anything in the book that should lead us to believe that K thought that he was behaving inappropriately? Did he think that what he was doing was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that this was the source of his overwhelming guilt. I am not sure that there is any evidence of this. In fact was he not being criticised above for not having this insight?
I do think that the relationship with the housekeeper is interesting. Is she about the only woman be doesn't have sex with. Why is that I wonder.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Goodness! The man sounds depraved. I'll need to reread those passages when I get home.

The question, though, is not whether you or I think his behaviour. Is there anything in the book that should ..."


I will have to go back and reread but I do think that within K's various interactions with women there are moments when he does feel guilt or regret, most particularly during his moments when he feels anger toward them and he has moments in which he sees the injustice of his behavior, but than it swings back the other way again and his irritation overtakes his reason.

His housekeeper is the only woman whom it does not seem he ever sees in a sexual way or ever seems to develop in sort of sexual desire for. Though if I recall I think she is something of an older woman, so her being more matronly may in part have to do with it. But it is also an interesting point in regards to his relationship with her that she is one person who adores K, and holds him in very high regard.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "Stewart wrote: "is also an interesting point in regards to his relationship with her that she is one person who adores K, and holds him in very high regard. "

Good point.


Melissa | 40 comments I haven't finished it, and I don't have my book with me, but I took it to be that K has arrested development, as Ellie said. He fights the allegations because who wants to be told they are in a rut? He has the same breakfast in his boarding house, he's important at work but not that important..... I think a lot of people, when they sit and take stock of their lives, wonder what they've done.

And I think a lot of artists and big thinkers look at society as a whole as a bunch of unfulfilled hamsters going in little wheels. Kind of beatnik-y.

But I haven't finished yet, so I could be way off the mark. I'm not enjoying all that much, so going a bit slow.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "Well there was his interactions with Mrs. Bürstner and the way in which he waited all night for her to come home, and pressured her into letting him into her room, and persistently would not leave when she asked him to, and than when he finally was about to leave, this woman of whom he barely knows, he begins desperately kissing her, and than continues to try and pursue her when she makes it clear she does not wish to speak to him anymore. She ends up having to get a roommate in order to protect herself from him. "

Just reread this encounter. She does not end up getting a room mate to protect her at all.

Again I don't see what K has done wrong.

He wants to see her. It is late. His light is off. He is concerned bout entering her room from his dark room, he fears it might look like an attack. Instead he whispers to her, she invites him in. So far, so gallant.

When he reenacts the mornings events he he disturbs the the housekeeper's nephew in the next room. She is concerned about what will be thought of her, entertaining a gentleman at such a late our. K points out that the landlady will believe whatever he tells her. He offers to tell the housekeeper whatever she wants. He tells her to think only of herself, not of him. He offers to tell the housekeeper that he attacked her. Again with the gallantry, offering to sacrifice his reputation to save hers.

True, she does ask him to leave and he refuses, saying that he won't leave till she calms down.

When he kisses her, both, early on on the forehead and later all over her face and neck, there is nothing in the text to indicate that she resists or disapproves. In fact after kissing her, when he announces that he is leaving she offers her hand to be kissed.

She doesn't seem to me to be a woman "put upon". In fact she tells K "I can take responsibility for everything that happens in my room against no matter whom".

So, I wouldn't see this encounter as some sort of improper sexual behaviour. Anyway, irrespective of what I think, if we are looking at reasons for K's feelings of guilt then what is important is what he thinks of his behaviour. And we are told what he thinks. After this encounter he goes to his bed "...but before falling asleep he thought of his behaviour. He was satisfied with it...".
I can't see how this behaviour could be a source of guilt for K when he does not think that he has done anything wrong.


message 33: by Silver (last edited Jun 16, 2011 03:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: "Well there was his interactions with Mrs. Bürstner and the way in which he waited all night for her to come home, and pressured her into letting him into her room, and persistently w..."

But after that visit in which he pays to her, she does not wish to have anything further to do with him or to see him again. He continues to try and get to speak with her and get in touch with her against her desires and wishes. Until she does finally have one of the other borders move into her room with her. The other woman than goes to speak to K on behalf of Mrs. Bürstner to make it clear to him that Mrs. Burstner does not wish to have anything further to do with him and that it is for the best that he stop trying to get in touch with her, and that she does not want to speak to him.

In addition it seems that K's desperation to try and speak to Mrs. Burstner comes from his fears that he has offended her in some way and seeking reassurance that she is not upset with him.

Then he wrote her a letter, both to the office and the flat, attempting once more to justify his behavior, offered to make whatever amends he could, promised never to cross whatever boundary she might set him and begged merely to have the chance to speak to her some time....

Why would K feel like he had to "justify" his actions, or make amends, if he truly and completely felt that he had done no wrong?

It seems that upon reflection after that fact, he does begin to question his behavior towards her, and thus he feels the need to speak to her to make certain that all is well between them and he is driven to feel as if he has to further explain himself to her.

That to me does not seem to speak of a completely clear and clean conscious.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: " The other woman than goes to speak to K on behalf of Mrs. Bürstner to make it clear to him that she does not wish to have anything further to do with him and that it is best that he stop trying to get in touch with her, and that she does not want to speak to him.
"

Fraulein Burstner does not reply to K's letters. We are told, however, that neither are they returned. What is the point of giving the reader this piece of information?

When Frauline Montag meets with K she doesn't say that B doesn't want to see him. On the contrary she says "She wanted to come herself, but she is feeling rather unwell today." She says that B does not refuse to consent to a discussion with him, but that she feels a discussion is unnecessary. M makes a point of saying that the reasons why this conversation would serve no purpose are not known to her. M says that it was she, and not Fraulein Burstner, who wanted the matter put to K and that B only agreed after some hesitation.

Now, obviously you are entitled to put any construction that you like on the character's behaviour but the text does not give an indication of the reasons for Fraulein Burstner's reluctance to have this conversation with K. It certainly does not tell us that she was so afraid of him that she had friend move in to keep her safe.

This Frauline Montag seems a pretty domineering sort of character. She is certainly very assertive in her dealings with K and by her own admission had coerced a hesitant Burstner into agreeing to give K a straight answer.

Who is to say that Frauline Burstner invited her to move into her room. No one says how this arrangement came about.

So, from what I read, K wants Frauline Burstner, she avoids rather than rejects him and another woman who makes her do things she is hesitant about moves in with her. Who is doing what to whom here seems a pretty moot point to me.

I am not sure that the idea that this is a woman seeking to protect herself from some sort of sexual predator by having a pal move in with her is supported by the text.

K certainly doesn't see it that way. And again if he does not see what he is doing as wrong then how can he feel guilty about it.


message 35: by Silver (last edited Jun 16, 2011 04:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: " The other woman than goes to speak to K on behalf of Mrs. Bürstner to make it clear to him that she does not wish to have anything further to do with him and that it is best that he..."

The letters were not the only efforts that K made to get in touch with her, in fact he had made several efforts to try to get in touch with her though various different means.

Even if she never directly refuses him, the very fact that she is clearly avoiding him and does not respond to any of his efforts to get in touch with him. Mrs. B does not give K any reason to believe she is receptive to his continued efforts to get in touch with her yet he still persists instead of taking the hint and just letting well enough alone.

In regards to Mrs. Montag telling K that Mrs. B is unless. Shortly have his conversation with Montag he goes up to Mrs. Bs room and discovers that it is empty. I think one could question of Montag's words can be taken at face value or if saying that Mrs. B is unwell is simply a polite way for Mrs. B to refuse to see K without directly telling him she does not wish to do so.

If K does not see anything at all wrong in what he is doing, than why does he write to Mrs. B and tell her he wants to justify his behavior and make amends to her?

Does a person who thinks themselves completely innocent, and completely in the right, feel that they need justification or that they owe anyone else amends?

Why would K use these very words when speaking of his actions to her, if he felt he had done nothing which would need justification or called for amends to be made?

And just to clarify I did not mean to insinuate that K was a sexual predator only that I think his behavior towards her is inappropriate but by that I simply meant that the way he acts towards her and other women, I do not think is the way in which a normal person would react in the same position. And I do think that his actions towards her can be seen as borderline harassment, but I do not meant to suggest that Mrs. B is in fact afraid of him or fears that she is in danger because of him, only that she does not wish to have any further discourse or interaction with him and having another person live with her could act as a buffer between her and K.


message 36: by Silver (last edited Jun 16, 2011 04:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Silver | 285 comments Also one more thing I want to point out. I myself am not the one that said I felt that K himself felt guilty or had a reason to feel guilty for his actions, you were the one to first bring up that idea, and I was simply giving my observations in response to the prospect of K having possible issues in regards to his sexual desires and relation with women.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "Stewart wrote: "Why would K feel like he had to "justify" his actions, or make amends, if he truly and completely felt that he had done no wrong? "

He is very very polite. All through the book. Everybody is. He seems to be very concerned about social proprieties. He is worried about putting a foot wrong, saying the wrong thing, being misunderstood. Worried about social embarrassment.

He wants her, she is avoiding him - if I've done anything wrong I'm sorry, just talk to me, I'll accept any limits you set (has he ever done otherwise).

He is not in his room spending sleepless nights brooding about the terrible thing that he is done. He is not tormented by the memory of a wanton reckless act. He is not going around saying - god how could I have done such a terrible thing. In short, he does not actually think that he has done anything wrong.

I am afraid that if we are looking for the source of K's angst by looking at his behaviour towards this woman then we are barking up the wrong tree.


Stewart | 63 comments Denae wrote: "I find it interesting that K seems to be largely alone in his ignorance of this court or its workings. Everyone else seems to have an idea what is happening."

Do you ever get that feeling; that everyone else knows what's going on?


message 39: by Stewart (last edited Jun 16, 2011 04:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: " the very fact that she is clearly avoiding him and does not respond to any of his efforts to get in touch with him."

Tells us what?

It tells us nothing other than she is avoiding him. It does not tell us why. The only indication of why, that I can see, is her reported statement that such a meeting would be useless. I do not see any indication as to why she believes that it would be useless.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: " She ends up having to get a roommate in order to protect herself from him.
"


Silver wrote: " I do not meant to suggest that Mrs. B is in fact afraid of him or fears that she is in danger because of him"


Stewart | 63 comments Hey Silver, enjoyed talking to you and everyone else.

What a great book, whatever any of it means.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: " the very fact that she is clearly avoiding him and does not respond to any of his efforts to get in touch with him."

Tells us what?

It tells us nothing other than she is avoiding ..."


It is irrelevant why she does not wish to speak to him. The main point I was trying to make here, is that when it is clear that she is avoiding him, he does not back off, but keeps attempting to try and get in touch with her. Regardless of her reasons, all that matters is that she does want to but some distance between him and so it is inappropriate of him to continue to try and send her messages and letters and knock at her door.

He should have ceased his efforts to get in touch with her when it did become clear that she was intentionally choosing not to respond to him.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: " She ends up having to get a roommate in order to protect herself from him.
"

Silver wrote: " I do not meant to suggest that Mrs. B is in fact afraid of him or fears that she is i..."



As I stated earlier, even if she does not fear that she is in any physical danger from him, his behavior towards her is a form of harassment, and so the presence of the roommate can serve to stave off his further attempts to get in touch with her, even if she does not think ill of him, or even if he does not have any ill intent, that does not change the fact that she does not want to have further communication with him, and he is not respecting that wish of hers.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: I am afraid that if we are looking for the source of K's angst by looking at his behaviour towards this woman then we are barking up the wrong tree..."

My primary argument here was not a question of any guilt K may or may not consciously feel, but rather a demonstration of how he has inappropriate social interactions with others, and particularly it seems with women and that certainly some form of sexual repression might be at the root of his inability to establish what seems like a normal relationship.

But to address the issue of Guilt, which certainty is an important question here personally I think that K may suffer from suppressed guilt that the guilt. Consciously he does not feel any true but in fact he may be too assured of his own innocence, that he never suffers a possible doubt that in fact he may have done something wrong. I think the Trail may be a manifestation of K's mind in which his subconscious is trying to force his conscious mind to acknowledge the fact that K may not in fact be as innocent as he thinks he is


Ellie (EllieArcher) K is not completely ignorant-he is unwilling to be conscious of whatever he knows. Which gives it, psychologically, more power than it would have if in fact he could acknowledge whatever it is. In fact, it could just be being human, being sexual, being alive not just a willing worker.

Bureaucracies do not reward ignorance although they sometimes reward slickness. Someone who is aware & plays the system may be rewarded; someone who is truly at peace with the system may be rewarded; someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for their own life and desires is never rewarded.

But bureaucracies don't reward except on a very random (which is, in fact, the most powerful reinforcement system that exists) basis.

The inner conflict is between wanting to be childlike, innocent or some fantasy about that, wanting to remain in ignorance, to be a "good boy" and the awareness, on some level, that he is not a child, not "good" in any simple way. He is not willing to make the effort that becoming "good" in an adult way involves: awareness of all one's desires, wishes, ugly and beautiful, passionate and alive and then making conscious choices about how one lives.

How many people have been devoted workers for a company for their entire lives only to find themselves let go before pension age, too old to find another job, having lost the pension they had counted on and cried out, Unfair. We did what we were supposed to. Bureaucracy is not interested in being fair. It is not "interested"-people treat an institution as though it were an active agent, a parental being, when in fact it's impersonal and usually not only not caring but not even efficient or effective.

Like K, bureaucracies evolve around the road of least resistance.


Melissa | 40 comments Stewart wrote: "Silver wrote: "Well there was his interactions with Mrs. Bürstner and the way in which he waited all night for her to come home, and pressured her into letting him into her room, and persistently w..."

I know you two have heavily hashed this out, but I wanted to back Silver on this one. I don't know anything about K's guilt or his sexual repressions, but I felt interactions in the scene with Fraulein Burstner were very inappropriate.

Why did he even want to talk to her? He'd never paid attention to her until the Grubach intimated that the young woman was staying out late and there were rumors about her. In other words, she might be easy.

He skips his weekly prostitute visit with Elsa to see Burstner. Then he's mad that Burstner is so late. He says it's HER fault that he didn't eat dinner.

Then he hides in the dark so as not to make it look like he is waylaying her. Which is exactly what he is doing. He goes into her room to tell her a (seemingly) lunatic story of how someone has been messing with her stuff (the clerk) and he wants to rearrange her furniture to re-enact it at some insane hour of the night.

She tells him to go away repeatedly. She says he "torments" her. But he just keeps talking and making advances. Which yes, she doesn't threaten to break his arm but she I don't think she reciprocates a bit.

And what's gallant about offering to tell everyone he assaulted her? If he wanted to be gallant, he'd leave her alone and hold a conversation at a respectable hour. Then when she doesn't jump at the assault story, he seems offended that no one would believe he had it in him to force a girl.

He's just bizarre.


Stewart | 63 comments Mellisa, I can't really see how any of us deciding that k's behaviour is or is not appropriate advances our understanding or appreciation of the book.

What might advance our understanding is determining what the characters or the writer thought about the behaviour. That doesn't mean that we have to agree with whatever the character or the writer thinks about it, but it does mean that we need to work from the text rather than our own views (prejudices?) In examining the rights and wrongs of something “away from the book” we are leaving literary criticism and entering the realms of moral philosophy. Not necessarily a bad place to go though.

There is one area where I would think it worth while (in a literary sense) to debate whether an action is good or bad. That is where the author's intended literary effect depends on us viewing a behaviour as having a particular moral value.

I am far from convinced that the correct determination of the appropriateness, or otherwise, of K's behaviour with Fraulein Burster advances our understanding or appreciation of this book.

However, not being one to back down from an argument I offer the following comments for your consideration (your original comments are in blue).

Melissa wrote: "...I felt interactions in the scene with Fraulein Burstner were very inappropriate.

Why did he even want to talk to her? He'd never paid attention to her until the Grubach intimated that the young woman was staying out late and there were rumors about her. In other words, she might be easy. "


You are asking questions here about his motivation. You defined the interactions (I'm guessing that you mean his actions rather than their interaction) as inappropriate. For you his behaviour is wrong. If you have already decided that his behaviour is wrong then his motives for behaving that way are irrelevant since the determination has already been made. I would suggest therefore that the questions you raise are irrelevant to the matter of the appropriateness or otherwise of his behaviour.

As it happens I am not convinced that K's motivation in seeking to talk with Fraulein Burstner was that he recently found out that she might be easy. He was concerned that morning about the use of her room, and people touching her pictures and moving her stuff around. We are told (before his conversation with Frau Grubach) that instead of going out galavanting after work he decided to go straight home

“it seemed to him as if, because of that morning's events, that considerable disorder had been occasioned in Frau Grubach's house and his presence was necessary to restore order”.

When K finds that Frauline B is not home he tells Frau G (before it is revealed how easy Frauline B might be)

“I only wanted to ask her to forgive me for making use of her room today”.

When Frau G says that Frauline B is easy K is angry tells her that she is wrong.

Later while waiting for Frauline B we are told that

”He had no particular feelings about her [Fraulein B], he could not even remember exactly what she looked like...”

Seems pretty clear to me that his motivation to see Frauline B was not to do with being easy.

But, even if it was, then I am not sure what is wrong with a man wanting to have sex with a woman, wanting to have sex with a woman whom he thinks might have sex with him or seeking to talk to a woman with a view to having sex with her.

Melissa wrote: "He skips his weekly prostitute visit with Elsa to see Burstner. "

What has that got to do with how appropriate his actions towards Fraulein Burstener? Do you think that if he had been to Elsa's first his action's would have been more appropriate?

Melissa wrote: "Then he's mad that Burstner is so late. He says it's HER fault that he didn't eat dinner. "

He is not mad, he is annoyed, annoyed that, having decided to talk to her, her lateness had introduced disturbance and disorder (at the end of a day that started with disturbance and disorder). True, he does blame her for missing dinner, but this is a thought that he has when alone and is therefore not an action, inappropriate or otherwise.

Melissa wrote: "Then he hides in the dark so as not to make it look like he is waylaying her. "

He wasn't hiding

“unfortunately he had forgotten to switch the electric light on in his room”

Melissa wrote: "Which is exactly what he is doing. "

Yes waylaying does sound a bit inappropriate. Of course that word is not used in the book, it is your construction.

He is concerned to speak to her in the hall at 11:30 because it would be inappropriate for him to be in her room at 12:00. It would be inappropriate to frighten her by emerging suddenly from a dark room, so having forgotten to turn the light on he whispers to her

“It sounded like a plea, not like a challenge”

Melissa wrote: "He goes into her room to tell her a (seemingly) lunatic story of how someone has been messing with her stuff (the clerk) and he wants to rearrange her furniture to re-enact it at some insane hour of the night."

He does go into her room. Is that inappropriate,? She agrees to him coming in, she goes in herself, he waits, she then invites him in again.

He does re-enact the scene. Is that inappropriate? He doesn't force the re-enactment on her. She consents. In fact she seems to share his outrage that he room has been violated. She thinks it “horrid” and cried [out] when she discovered that her photographs had been moved.

Melissa wrote: "She tells him to go away repeatedly. She says he "torments" her. "

'Go away,' she said, 'go away,' and she sat up quickly' but go, do go. What are you doing? He must be listening at the door. He can hear everything. How you torment me.'

Now, I don't want to quibble, but she doesn't tell him to go away repeatedly. She does use the word go four times, but it is all in the one sentence, it is the one instruction. She says that he torments her and tells him to go. He refuses.

She tells him to go once. He says that he won't go till she has calmed down. Having calmed down she asks him again to go again, and he does.

Now, I am happy to concede that the appropriate thing to do would have been to go when he was first told. And if not going till she” calmed down a bit” is the great crime of which he stands accused then he is certainly guilty. Guilty of being concerned about her welfare.

Maybe it is patronising and sexist, similar to him,say, insisting that he carry her heavy bag upstairs when she says “no, no I can manage.”

Anyway if that is it, then he is guilty as charged.

Melissa wrote: "But he just keeps talking and making advances. Which yes, she doesn't threaten to break his arm but she I don't think she reciprocates a bit."

He does not keep making advances. He kisses her.

Before that, however she;

allowed him to lead her to another part of the room
asks him to forgive her, explaining that she was scared
says that she was grateful for his suggestions and good intentions
says that she was not angry with him
makes no discouraging action or comment when he took her by the hand then the wrist
when he took her by the wrist again she explicitly “allowed him to do so”

When he does “seize” her not only does she not “threaten to brake his arm” she does not resist in any way, make any comment or action that could be construed as an expression of her view that this was inappropriate. In fact after he kisses her, when he says that he is going, she gives him her hand to kiss.

Now, I fully accept that she did not reciprocate in this kiss. Does that make the kiss inappropriate. Is the problem that he did not say “I am going to seize you and kiss you. Is that OK with you?”

That's the thing about kissing people; your never quite sure how they will respond. Does that mean it is always inappropriate to kiss people?

Melissa wrote: "And what's gallant about offering to tell everyone he assaulted her? If he wanted to be gallant, he'd leave her alone and hold a conversation at a respectable hour. Then when she doesn't jump at the assault story, he seems offended that no one would believe he had it in him to force a girl. "

It is literally gallant – self sacrificing. She is afraid that she is compromised, having a male visitor at this late hour. Remember, she invited him in, twice. So, in order to save her reputation because of something that she has done he offers to sacrifice his for something that he hasn't done. Gallantry.

Melissa wrote: "He's just bizarre. "

Please excuse my pedantry, but, if he is just bizarre then he cannot be bizarre and inappropriate :)

Yes I do think he is pretty bizarre, he lives in a bizarre world where bizarre things happen. But, is his behaviour with Fraulein Burstner inappropriate, in the sense that it is worthy of morale censure? Notwithstanding his refusal to leave her till she calmed down a bit, I really don't think so.


Silver | 285 comments Stewart wrote: . But, is his behaviour with Fraulein Burstner inappropriate, in the sense that it is worthy of morale censure? Notwithstanding his refusal to leave her till she calmed down a bit, I really don't think so. ..."

I really hate to keep this argument going, because I think it has come to a point of simply having to agree to disagree, but I just have to ask.

You really do not think there is anything inappropriate about a man kissing a woman whom up to that point he has not so much as spoken to before? Up until this moment he has never had any interaction with her, it is not as if they were on "friendly" terms prior to this, or had some casual acquaintance. They were strangers to each other, and yet after approaching her with this completely bazaar tale, and presenting it to her in a way that is a bit irrational, you think it was completely acceptable behavior for him to than take the liberty of kissing her, particularly knowing that she was already concerned about her reputation in his staying in her room so late.


Judy (patchworkcat) | 38 comments Silver wrote: "Stewart wrote: . But, is his behaviour with Fraulein Burstner inappropriate, in the sense that it is worthy of morale censure? Notwithstanding his refusal to leave her till she calmed down a bit, I..."

Looks like an intense discussion going on this time around! :-)
I agree with you, Silver & Melissa. K borders on stalking, the way he waits for her, writes her the note to meet him when she has shown little interest in him.

Having said this, I know you aren't going to agree, Stewart, especially about the stalking part. That's okay, because that's what makes discussion fun.

I'm thinking that the perception of "friendly" and "too friendly" is an individual one. The "too friendly" perception is going to be more likely with the person who perceives they are weaker and threatened. Fraulein Burstner doesn't give the outward impression of being threatened when with K, but the fact that she quickly obtained a roommate and avoided K from then on would indicate she felt there was a degree of threat to her.

As Silver pointed out, taking the liberty of kissing Fraulein Burstner when she hasn't indicated pleasure in his company is unacceptable behavior.


Stewart | 63 comments Silver wrote: "Regardless of her reasons, all that matters is that she does want to but some distance between him and so it is inappropriate of him to continue to try and send her messages and letters and knock at her door. ."

It is inappropriate for him to do something that she wants him not to do? Even although she hasn't asked him not to do it, told him not to do it, asked her friend to ask him not to do it?

You have decided that she wants to put some distance between them. Fine, you are perfectly entitled to think what you like, but that is not what Kafka wrote.

Kafka tells us that while she did not reply to his letters she did not return them. Now, I am taking a returned, unopened letter, as a clear statement of rejection and think it significant that the author goes to the bother of telling us that she did not do this. Why does he tell us that? Of course we could invent a hundred reasons why she chose to behave this way, what you, or I think is important (to us anyway) but this is a novel. What does Kaka want us to think. Which of the possible explainations best fits with her other behaviours? What are her other behaviours?

Granted, she does not acede to his wish to a meeting. Now, we could put ourselves in hour shoes and saw "well obviously I would want this, or feel that". And that is fair enough, but I am not realy that interested in what you, or I, would do or feel in these situations. I want to know what Kafka's characters feel and think. They are his character's not ours, I think that we owe him that.

So, what does the text tell us about her motivation, her thinking on the subject.

We are told that when K puts it to Frauline Montag that Fraulein Burstner "will not consent to the discussion I asked for" Frauline B agrees then corrects herself saying "that's not how it is at all".

Kafka could have had her say "of course she doesn't want to see you and if you don't stop harrassing her instantly we'll have the police on you."

Why does nobody give him a clear message - "this is inappropriate, stop it!"?

We are told that Fraulein Bursten was "hesitant" about agreeing to Fraulein Montag giving K a "straight answer" (One she doesn't actually deliver by the way).

Why does the author present her as being hesitant? Perhaps he is trying to show that she is victim that doesn't know her own mind. Though that wouldn't fit in with her bold assertion to K that she "can take responsibility for anything that happens in my room against no matter whom".

Kafka could easily have had K told, in no uncertain terms. "Stop it". It would then have been clear that K was behaving badly. He didn't and it is not. I wonder why.


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