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Guilt In Joseph Kafka's The Trial

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The Trial, published in 1925, after Kafka’s death in 1924, depicts the internalized conflict Joseph K faces in a society flawed by its abusive power in the law system. The oppressive and mysterious trial wins the reader’s attention in trying to figure out, at the same time as K himself, what the latter is accused of. On the morning of his 30th birthday, Joseph K disregards his accusation as he presumes to be innocent. However, as the protagonist evolves throughout the novel, his conviction of an unavoidable execution leads him to fame his “shame.”

Joseph K is a developing character. Throughout the novel, he appears as a mysterious individual in which the reader knows very little about. Indeed, barely any information is shared about his past,
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is absorbed by one final feeling: “It was as if the shame would outlive him” (178). Many interpretations may arise from the question around Joseph K.’s “shame.” The novel begins with a clear statement of his innocence: “Somebody must have made a false accusation against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong” (1). This suggests that it is during the stream of his trial that Joseph K becomes guilty, therefore resulting in his shame. The reason for his arrest inevitably appears as a mystery. He may not have done anything “wrong” per se; instead he may have simply not done anything right, or expected of him to do; K is consequently punished for his…show more content…
If this is the case, what can he possibly be ashamed of? Primo Levy has come up with an answer to this question I particularly like and agree with. Indeed, he implies that in his shame, a particular element comes to light. He argues that the source of such a painful feeling rises from the unacceptable existence of the corrupted tribunal, created by men, and responsible for the oppressive, overbearing journey, and inevitable death, of Joseph K. During his final instants, K’s wounded heart experiences the “shame of being a man.” Kafka illustrates in his novel the permanent conflict between an elusive law and a vain search for truth and justice. In The Trial, the law appears to be hidden and distant while still demanding, through its representatives, rigorous obedience. Society is thus divided in two groups differentiating the people incarnating the law to those who must obey it. This submission, however, can lead to the lost of what constitute mankind, the one element, according to René Descarte, that truly differentiates humans to animals: the possession of our souls. Indeed, Joseph K is ashamed of the despicable nature of human kind and dies, in submissiveness towards the law, “like a dog”
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