Guid Essay

Guid Essay

Existentialism in The Trial by Kafka

The Czech writer FRANZ KAFKA (1883-1924) belonged to a middle class family. His father Herman was disrespectful and ill tempered towards Kafka’s escape into the literature work and writing. Kafka became the eldest and only son when his two brothers died and he was aware his role in the family and rest of the life.

Franz Kafka is one of the greatest influences on Western literature in the twentieth century. He has inspired a whole range of artists from the creators of the detective story to writers of the television series Twilight Zone. He began work on The Trial in 1914 after a horrendous encounter with his fiancé, Felice Bauer, her sister, Erna Bauer, and Grete Bloch (a short-term lover). According to Kafka’s friend Max Brod, he never finished the work and gave the manuscript to Brod in 1920. After his death, Brod edited The Trial into what he felt was a coherent novel and had it published, despite the German ban on Jewish literature, in 1925. The manuscript eventually passed from Brod’s heirs to the German national literary archives in the late 1980s for several million dollars. Since then, new editions have been published and some textual integrity re stored to the English version of the story.

He was isolated and subjected to unknown terrifying forces. KAFKA has narrated many stories and novels in his writing. In his novel The Trial he tells the story of a country doctor who goes to check a sick child. When he reaches the sick child home he discovers that child has been consumed by the maggots. In his same novel The Trial, KAFKA relates a story about a man known as Joseph K who has awakened at one night by hammering on his door. He finds that he was under arrest.

The Trial in 1926 is his novel with the style of meditations, parable, poetic fragments and sketches. His work is open due to multiple interpretations and difficult categories and reflects the existentialism and modernism.

Existentialism is a vast and meticulous philosophy that, in a nutshell, advocates a diverse arsenal of responses and solutions to the existentialist attitude which, essentially, is what an individual feels when confronted by the absurdity of life. Throughout humanity, ruminations and self-proclaimed ‘ultimate’ truths have assumed various forms: prose, poetry, religion and numerous other doctrines, to name but a few.

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Kafka has inspired many of the great novelists of the twentieth century. Consequently, there is an incredible amount of literary criticism devoted to his work. The critical material discussing The Trial falls between two poles. On the one hand, Kafka is viewed through a psychological or religious lens that sees the tensions of his work as derived from an oedipal complex or the heritage of the Judaic law. At the other extreme, where few tread, are the positivist approaches of Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari. This latter approach finds a new philosophy, a new politics, in Kafka that is as yet unexplored. Whatever the approach, there is general agreement that Kafka should be praised for his deft depiction of twentieth-century alienation and bureaucracy at the universal level.

K., except for a brief friendship with Hasterer, prefers his own company. In the matter of his trial, “he didn’t want to enlist anyone’s aid and thus initiate them in the matter even distantly.” To do so would be to initiate another person into himself. This is an act he cannot even do in the form of a petition. This is as it should be since the trial is his own, it is his guilt, and no matter what he does or where he goes, that is where the inquiry will be located: “he is certainly being treated with strange carelessness.”

As much as K. desires it, he is not alone. Everyone who knows him also knows about his trial. From his point of view, the entire universe finds him guilty from the casual observer to the men who kill him like a dog.

In Kafka’s view, there is a way of life for any individual that is the right one, and which is divinely sanctioned. So much is perhaps admitted by most of our moral novelists; but to Kafka this fact itself constitutes a problem of tremendous difficulty, because he believes the dichotomy between the divine and the human, the religious and the ethical, to be absolute. Thus, though it is imperative for us to attempt to follow the true way, it is impossible for us to succeed in doing so. This is the fundamental dilemma that Kafka believes to lie at the basis of all human effort


Kafka employs the fictional literary elements he constructs to address the very non-fictional, existentialist aspects of society and life. Akin to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, it can be interpreted as both a rumination and tirade against impersonal communities, restriction of freedom, and the absurdity of life. It would be foolish to expect that an examination of Kierkegaard’s argument that religious faith is totally divorced from reason, and of Kafka’s private response to it, would lead to a firm conclusion for or against Kierkegaard’s position. Kierkegaard’s book assumes that his readers come to it equipped with an attitude of religious belief. Without that, his poetic flourishes would be less effective, and his dialectical “proofs” would lose force.


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