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The Trial

Franz Kafka

Chapter 8

Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Summary

Though it is not an easy decision, K. resolves to dispense with his lawyer's services. He goes to the lawyer's house one evening past ten o'clock. The door is opened by a somewhat pitiable figure--a wasted, bearded little man in his shirt-sleeves. K. catches sight of Leni rushing to another room in her nightgown. He demands to know of the little man whether he is Leni's lover. The man assures K. that he is not. He is merely Block, the tradesman, and a client of the lawyer. Block leads K. to the kitchen where Leni is preparing the lawyer's soup. K. is still mistrustful, but the other two manage to allay his suspicions. Block is simply too pathetic a creature.

Leni takes the lawyer his soup. K. takes a seat and questions Block about that man's case. Before telling K. his secrets, Block extracts from K. a promise to reciprocate. The lawyer is vindictive, and Block has not been entirely faithful. Block's case is more than five years old and has consumed the poor man's energy and resources. He has discreetly engaged five hack lawyers in addition to Herr Huld, and spends nearly every day in the lobby of the Law Court Offices. In fact, he was there the day K. first visited. There is a foolish superstition among accused men, says Block, which maintains that the outcome of a man's case can be read in the expression of his lips. The accused men waiting in the lobby declared that K.'s lips revealed a guilty verdict. The man who lost his composure in K.'s presence did so because he thought he read a sign concerning his own fate when he looked at K.'s lips. But all this is nonsense, says Block.

Block also mentions the "great lawyers," about whom every accused man dreams, but who are entirely inaccessible and unknown. Leni returns; K. treats her with his usual curtness. She reveals that Block sleeps in the house, in a tiny maid's chamber, because the lawyer never consents to see Block unless he feels like it. Block must therefore always be at the ready, in case the lawyer should suddenly agree to a meeting. The lawyer apparently finds Block annoying.

As K. gets up to see the lawyer, Block reminds him of his promise to share a secret. K. obliges: he announces that he is going to dismiss the lawyer. Both Block and Leni try to prevent him from committing this rash act, but K. slips into the lawyer's chamber and locks the door behind him.

The lawyer informs K. of a peculiarity of Leni's character. She finds all accused men extraordinarily attractive. K. informs the lawyer of his decision. The lawyer asks K. to reconsider. He admits a fondness for K. K. explains his frustrations with the way the case is being handled, and asks what measures the lawyer would take if he were to continue. Herr Huld claims he would continue with his current activities. K. is not interested. He is puzzled, however, as to why a seemingly wealthy and invalid lawyer should care so much about keeping a client.

The lawyer makes one more attempt to convince K. He wants to demonstrate to K. how accused men are normally treated, so that K. might realize how well he has been treated (or to what degree he has been ignored by the Court) thus far. Huld sends Leni to fetch the tradesman. K. watches how the two humiliate the man, how he fearfully allows himself to be humiliated. The lawyer seems to have absolute power over Block.

The chapter was never completed.

Commentary

Block is another willing informant on the doings of the Court, as well as another stranger who knows a fair amount about K.'s situation. He is five years into his case and seems a shell of a man. He's described physically as "dried up"; psychologically he has subjugated himself entirely to the lawyer. That he also clandestinely consults five hack lawyers behind the lawyer's back makes him that much more craven and pathetic. Is this the future life K. has to look forward to? Is this the sort of freedom the painter claims he can help K. win? K. likens Block's behavior (and his treatment at the hands of Huld and Leni) to that of a dog. Indeed, when Leni catches the genuflecting Block worrying away at the rug, she grabs him by the collar just as one might a misbehaving household pet. Block, once a respected tradesman, has been reduced to doghood. This observation repulses and horrifies Joseph K.; it is a particularly resonant one in light of his dying utterance in Chapter Ten.

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