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The Trial

Franz Kafka

Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Chapter 5

Summary

K. spends several days unsuccessfully trying to speak with Fraulein Burstner. She manages to avoid meeting him, despite the considerable measures he takes to encounter her. He sends her a letter, offering to make amends for his behavior and to follow any dictates she might provide for further interaction between them. He will wait in his room on Sunday for some sign from her. His letter is not answered. On Sunday he notices that another boarder, Fraulein Montag, is moving into Fraulein Burstner's room.

His landlady, Frau Grubach, who has been tortured by his silence this past week, is relieved when K. finally speaks to her. Though K. is not particularly kind to her, it is at least a sort of forgiveness.

Fraulein Montag asks to speak with him. He goes and sees her in the dining room. She tells him that Fraulein Burstner thought it best for all parties that the interview he requested not take place. Fraulein Burstner had not intended to respond in any way, but Fraulein Montag prevailed upon Fraulein Burstner to allow her to act as intermediary and explicitly inform K. of Fraulein Burstner's opinion. K. thanks Fraulein Montag for the information and rises to leave. The Captain (Frau Grubach's nephew) enters and greets Fraulein Montag with a respectful hand-kissing. K. senses that the two of them are both exaggerating Fraulein Burstner's importance to him and trying to impede his conquest of the girl. He leaves the dining room but cannot resist knocking at Fraulein Burstner's door. There is no answer. He goes in, feeling that he is doing something pointless and wrong. Fraulein Burstner must have left while Fraulein Montag was talking to him. He leaves the room, but sees that Fraulein Montag and the Captain are conversing in the doorway of the dining room. They have clearly witnessed his indiscretion.

Commentary

The action and narrative direction of Chapter Four are never really taken up again in this unfinished novel. Fraulein Burstner reappears ephemerally in the final chapter, but the sub-plot of K.'s pursuit and her reluctance is never fleshed out. True, many characters in The Trial appear briefly and quickly disappear, like so many evaporating figures in a dreamed landscape. But one feels more attention might ultimately have been paid her, especially considering the significant symbolic role she plays in K.'s final thoughts.

The Captain's and Fraulein Montag's suspicions do not seem related to K.'s case, nor does K. seem to link the two in any way to his legal difficulties. Neither of these characters has any bearing on the rest of the book.

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