Summary and Analysis Chapter 3



K. does not show the slightest understanding of his situation. He is surprised and even irritated that the Court has evidently taken seriously his initial refusal to be tried and has, as a result, not issued a specific date for the next session with the authorities on a Sunday morning, "assuming tacitly" that this is what they want him to do. The now familiar pattern prevails: K.'s initiative leads him nowhere, and the authorities recede before him whenever he addresses them. As a person under arrest, and one who has been previously reprimanded for showing up late, K. has every reason to make sure he acts in compliance with the Court. The sad fact is, however, that, even though he shows up at the most plausible time, there simply is no session scheduled for that time.

K. runs into the same promiscuous woman who interrupted the first interrogation by giving in to the advances of a student, a potentially powerful assistant of the Court. She knows her way around, and her husband, the usher, meets K.'s need for inside information about the Court. It turns out that all she wants is to seduce K. The dirtiness of the setting — the Chief Magistrate's "law book" is a sex magazine — reflects the decadence of the Court. The names "Hans" and "Grete" on the book cover, taken from a very popular German fairy tale, suggest its unreal quality. Most importantly, the intricate pattern of hierarchical rungs gives K. a first glance of the impenetrable wall of indolence and conspiracy he is up against: the woman, the student-assistant, and the Magistrate — they all represent three levels of bureaucratic decadence tied together by sexual appetite. Like everywhere else in Kafka's writings, erotic contacts happen suddenly, and because they do, they also lead to immediate disappointment through roused expectations. Deprivation is a feature of these sudden encounters: K. does not even get near the woman here, who does not put up much resistance when she is dragged away from K. and taken upstairs to her boss. The deprivation is a symptomatic feature of the world of The Trial: Fräulein Bürstner, too, is not available to

K. after their first embrace; her return at the end of the novel repeats this pattern.

With the help of the cuckolded usher, K. gains access to the Court offices, which are located, strangely but appropriately enough, in the garret. As opposed to the usher, K. still thinks his case is by no means "a foregone conclusion," and he follows him with great curiosity. Like all members of the middle strata of the Court, the usher has long since resigned himself to his fate and is bewildered by anyone still optimistically engaged in fighting his case. K. meets a whole roomful of defendants who all rise courteously because they mistake him for the judge. In Chapter 8, Block will tell K. that they stood up, not for him, whom they recognized as a defendant, but for the usher as a potentially helpful person whose good will is to be cherished. A tall man, whose natural superiority is still noticeable despite the dumbfounded reaction he displays when K. addresses him, stands as a grim illustration of the debilitating effect of the Court: he has handed in several affidavits concerning his case but has never received a reply. The resulting uncertainty has rendered him helpless. At this point, K. is still convinced of his superior businesslike approach in tackling his own case, and he pushes the "weakling" aside.

K. arrives before the gentleman from the Court's Clerk of Inquiries. who is introduced to him with the following words: "He supplies all the information the clients need; since our procedure is not too well known among the people, many of them ask for information. He has an answer ready for each question; if you feel like trying him out, go ahead." At this crucial point where K. is led to believe, as is the reader, that he is very close to the fulfillment of his desire to get at the innermost circles of the Court, his strength fails him. His only wish now is to escape the stale air and dizzying narrowness of the garret. Again the familiar pattern of the highest Court receding before K.'s advances prevails. The parallel to the scene in The Castle is obvious, where K. falls asleep at exactly the moment he is on the verge of obtaining everything he wants from Bürgel.

Back to Top