The Trial By Franz Kafka Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

The strange timeless and developmentless atmosphere of the world portrayed finds a most adequate expression in the title of this chapter, "The Whipper." It stands out because it shows the continued repetition of the one event it deals with. Everything is reduced to certain fixed habits, a reflection of the inaneness of the Court.

This chapter affords us a glimpse into the terroristic facets of the Court. K. himself is not exposed to punishment, but the two warders whom he has accused of illegal practices during his arrest are to be whipped. K. is understandably shocked at this, not only because he had not planned to have them beaten, but because by punishing them the Court takes away from K.'s attack on it: by responding to K.'s complaint in this way, the Court demonstrates that K.'s charges of indifference and inaccessibility are not universally valid. Of course, K. would prefer no beatings for this reason. However, the overseer calms him down: "The punishment is as just as it is inevitable." By implication this sentence makes clear that K. is guilty and that nobody can escape his just punishment.

What makes the scene so particularly frightening to K. is the stereotyped repetition of the whipping. A reflection of his own hopeless situation, it is this repetition that tortures him most: he is almost tempted to "take off his clothes and to offer himself to the whippers." He is already caught in the vicious, senseless cycle of floundering about. This motion around in a circle is the structural equivalent of his life's justification, which he craves but cannot obtain.

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