Remember where we left K.?, escaping Titorelly’s studio with those paintings he didn’t want but bought from him. In the book, he took the canvases and placed them in one of his drawers at the office. But this photo from Orson Wells’s movie of K. running with the falling off full framed pictures makes it more dramatic.
This post I’ll discuss the last 3 chapters according to shmoop’s division,
Chapter 8, Block the Merchant, Dismissal of the Lawyer
Chapter 9, In the Cathedral
Chapter 10, The End
It’s remarkable how much pleasurable, (or stimulating) it is to discuss the book than to actually read it. Once out of the suffocating chapters, one has enough space and a regained clarity to ruminate at leisure about K., the other characters, and the significance of the events and whole book.
Chapter 8 introduces us to Block, a merchant who also sees Huld as his lawyer. One of his lawyers. K. doesn’t know Block, but Block knows K. He tells him he was there the day K. almost fainted at the court offices. Characteristic of the book, events and character seem random, but they are also connected by a logic, a logic that seems to be rooted in the absurd more than in a solid reasoning or system. The conversations, people and events, seem random, but they also appeal to our logic or reasoning capacities. For example, Block’s talk doesn’t quite make sense, -about having several lawyers, and how some are petty lawyers, and how some are great, but no-one has ever seen or contacted any of those. I want to understand what’s off or different in Kafka’s book. Katie commented about her college professor telling them that Kafka’s style was expressionist. I wrote in a reply this from Wikepedia,
In literature, expressionism is often considered a revolt against realism and naturalism, seeking to achieve a psychological or spiritual reality rather than record external events in logical sequence. In the novel, the term is closely allied to the writing of Franz Kafka and James Joyce (see stream of consciousness).
We are thrown facts and assertions, but there’s no explanations or judgments in the text. We don’t have any clear identities in the book to whom we can pin subjective behaviors or value statements, all the book is in itself impersonal and at the same time, unreliable. Individuals are objectified, and like Katie said, their relations are reduced to transactions.
There’s a surreal chain of events in this chapter between Block, K., Leni, and Huld. Block tells K. that the accused can be told guilty or innocent by looking at their face, and K.’s face has guilty written all over. At the same time, Huld tells K. he is not surprised that Leni has something for him, seem all the defendants seem to be attractive. Leni dominates Block, and Huld dominates Leni and Block. Block tries to assert himself over K.’s too. Block sleeps in the maid’s room, waiting until Huld is ready for him. Leni serves Huld, she also seems to take advantage of the defendants to have a relationship with them as she pleases.
Chapter 9, The Cathedral, one of the most intriguing and slightly different chapters of this book. K. is assigned to show some sites of the city to an Italian client. K. would normally see this as a privilege, but ever since his trial, he is having lots of disconcerting thoughts, like the one of loosing his high status in the bank if he leaves the bank for long, -which makes sense and doesn’t make sense. (If our job is compromised, does it matter much if we stay at the office long hours?) K. attempts to refresh his Italian. To his dismay, the client speaks a dialect he’s not familiar with, and to make matters worse, the client has a mustache that makes it difficult to read his mouth. First, I’d like to say it’s so true that languages vary much in their strong dialects. My husband knows Italian, particularly Sicilian, -since that’s the Italian region closer to Malta. Many years ago, the only English I was familiar with, was British English. That all changed when I came to Texas. Nowadays, when we have a visitor from up north, or from places like Ireland, or South Africa, come to our congregation to preach or talk, it takes us all some time to acclimate to the accent. In K.’s case, communication is never possible, even though his boss helps him up.
They agree to meet at the cathedral next morning. K. arrives, (maybe early or late, there’s a confusion with time we don’t know if intentional or due to the incompleteness of the novel), but he doesn’t see the Italian anywhere. He decides to go inside. I don’t know if this is relevant, but he sees a picture with a guard, standing sentry at Christ’s tomb.
Then it comes my favorite part of the book, K. talking to the priest, and the priest telling him about this story from “introductory texts to the Law,” as the priest calls them.
As the story goes, a “man from the country” approaches the doorkeeper of the Law and asks to enter. The doorkeeper says the man can, but not at the present time. Even though the gate is open, the doorkeeper explains that 1) he’s a pretty tough dude, and 2) inside the gate there are more gates, guarded by tougher dudes.
So the man from the country decides to wait it out – for years on end. He has quite a few conversations with the doorkeeper, who remains polite but indifferent to the very end.
Finally, the man from the country is approaching his own death. It seems like everything’s getting dark, so dark. But the man thinks he sees a bright light emerging from the gate.
The man finally asks the doorkeeper why, in all the years he’s been waiting at the gate, that nobody else has tried to gain admittance to the Law. Because the man is growing deaf, the doorkeeper has to yell his reply, which is that no one else has come by because the gate was meant for the man alone.
And that’s the end of the parable.
And this is what K. believes from that parable,
K. at first believes that the parable confirms his basic suspicion that the court and everyone in it is corrupt and the best thing for him to do is to ignore the trial. The priest disagrees, and offers K. multiple interpretations of the story:
1. The doorkeeper doesn’t seem like a bad guy or a corrupt one. In fact, the story seems to indicate he’s got a friendly side that goes beyond mere dutifulness.
2. The doorkeeper could just be doing a really, really good job – he’s just simple-minded. Perhaps he doesn’t understand exactly what guarding the gate entails. Maybe he’s supposed to let the man in and he just, uh, didn’t get the memo, so to speak.
3. The doorkeeper is actually dependent on the man from the country. He’s inferior and subordinate to the man because as long as the man is there, the doorkeeper is stuck at the gate defending it.
4. Don’t judge the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper is a representative of the Law, and you can’t criticize the Law.
And chapter 10, the end. The Trial ends abruptly. It’s his 31st birthday, two men come to see him, they take him to a quarry, where K. takes off his jacket and shirt. The two men take turns passing a knife back and forth. K. deduces from this that he should take the knife and kill himself. But he doesn’t want to. Then he sees someone at a house, open a window and stretch his arms, K. does the same, and at that time (as if welcoming death), one man grabs him by his throat, while the other stubs him in the heart. K. sees the two men cheek by cheek, and he said, “like a dog”, and it was as if the shame of it should outlive him.
Do you all think this chapter had Judaeo Christian resonances, or direct allusions?
And this is the moment when we all say, “what did just happen?” My edition had some added notes, other chapters. You can read them here, they are called Fragments. What do you get from them?, and from the whole book?
Thanks for reading along. I had always wanted to read some more Kafka than just his The Metamorphosis. I am glad I read The Trial, and it was great to be able to discuss this strange book with you.