The Trial

by: Franz Kafka

Chapter 9

Summary Chapter 9

Kafka's parable of the entrance to the Law is as luminous as it is opaque. It seems to contain some essence of truth about the relationship between the citizen and the Law, or perhaps the human condition in general, but what--other than tragedy of one man's futile efforts--does it really relate? It is a Kafka story in miniature: a gnomic genesis of interminable commentary and speculation. The chaplain offers K. the outlines of several prominent interpretations, but clearly he is only scratching the surface.

Is the man from the country meant to represent K.? Is the Law truly unreachable? Does the doorkeeper speak the truth? Is the doorkeeper, by way of his connection to the Law, beyond reproach. K. remarks that to consider the doorkeeper unimpeachable is to accept everything he says as the truth despite the fact that at least one of his statements is untrue. Perhaps the chaplain's most salient comment comes in his response: "...it is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary." This seems to be the modus operandi of the Law, the dynamo within the great machine of the Court, the divine principle before which the functionaries--and eventually the accused men--prostrate themselves. It is, as K. declares, a "melancholy thought" because it "turns lying into a universal principle." That universal lie of necessity--the mother of detention--keeps the mechanism moving forward and squelches potential challenges to the system. When the Law takes necessity as its model, justice is doomed. The terrible fact of The Trial, and of the parable, is that the men seeking justice eventually accept this warped universal principle and its skewed criteria; they submit to the necessity of their own exclusion or death.