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The Trial

Franz Kafka

Chapter 6

Chapter 5

Chapter 7

Summary

Joseph K.'s impetuous country-dwelling Uncle Karl comes to see him. The uncle has caught wind of the case and is very concerned, both for K. and for the family's sake. K. is taking the whole thing far too lightly for his uncle's satisfaction--the case calls for energetic action. Uncle Karl prevails upon K. to accompany him on a visit to an old lawyer friend.

Herr Huld, the lawyer, is on his sick bed when they call. He becomes much more animated when K. is introduced. K.'s uncle verbally abuses the man's nurse until she leaves at the lawyer's behest. It turns out the lawyer already knows of K.'s case from his movements in court circles. In fact, the Chief Clerk of the Court is in the room, waiting in the shadows. He has come to pay the lawyer a visit; K. and Uncle Karl have not noticed him. The Chief Clerk joins the three and begins to speak eloquently while pointedly ignoring K. K. wonders whether this man might have been in the crowd during his interrogation.

A loud sound of breaking cookery comes from the entrance hall. K. volunteers to see what has happened. It is Leni, the lawyer's nurse. Apparently burning with desire for him, she caused the commotion to bring him out of the room. She leads him into the lawyer's study. In the study K. notices a large portrait of a man in a judge's robe depicted is if ready to spring from his throne-like seat. He asks Leni about this man. She knows him--he is only an Examining Magistrate. She also knows about K.'s case, and implores him to be less unyielding. Foreplay ensues, etc. etc.

Leni gives K. a key and tells him he is welcome any time. He goes out into the street where his uncle lambastes him. According to Uncle Karl, K. has badly damaged his case by disappearing for hours. The Chief Clerk waited until K.'s absence became glaring and the conversation awkward, then left. Uncle Karl has been waiting for hours, by his own account.

Commentary

Leni is the third woman to want Joseph K. Who are the women of The Trial? Maids, secretaries, and poor housewives, all accustomed to playing, or eager to play, the role of mistress. Kafka's biographer describes pre-World War I Prague as a place where young professionals--a banker such K., a lawyer or bureaucrat such as Kafka--would marry women of their class but habitually go to poorer women of a lower social class for sex. Prostitution was, for some women, not so clearly defined as a profession--the lines between lover, mistress, free-lancer, and professional were not so strictly drawn. Certainly, this reflects the relative powerlessness--economically, socially, politically--of women low on the social scale. Young men did not complain, and perhaps the young women with whom they consorted got more out of the bargain than was otherwise available to them within the strictly prescribed boundaries of their social world. The mores of the time and place tacitly approved of the arrangement.

That said, Leni seems to adore K. beyond all reason or promise of potential benefit. K. himself has no idea why he has suddenly become so attractive, but he is conceited enough not to trouble himself too much about it. Still, for someone so ambitious and punctilious in his work, and so determined not to give the Court any hold over him, K. acts at times quite recklessly. The first instance was his insolence during the interrogation. And now, he snubs the Chief Clerk of the Court. Such, apparently, are the charms of Leni. Or such is K.'s underdeveloped sense of gravity at this point in his case.

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