Summary and Analysis Chapter 4


The opening paragraphs make it clear that Fräulein Bürstner is not going to grant K. his wish for another date. Her decision to move in with the pale and weakly Fräulein Montag is her precautionary step against possible advances on K.'s part. Speaking for her roommate, Fräulein Montag argues that "interviews are neither deliberately accepted nor refused," but that someone may just "see no point in them." This argument is very much like the one with whose help the authorities keep K. at bay. Note, too, that when Fräulein Bürstner sends her roommate as an intermediary, it is on a Sunday of all things, a day which is bound to remind K. of his first interrogation. As a result, a certain, perhaps only symbolic, relationship exists between the three. The message Fräulein Montag brings to K. is to suggest that he talk to her instead of her friend: in terms of K.'s scheme, this means that he has not found any sympathy, let alone recourse, in Fräulein Bürstner — she is seemingly disinterested in his case, possibly because he cannot tell her anything about legal matters in which she claims to be interested.

K. assesses Fräulein Bürstner incorrectly: recalling Frau Grubach's derogatory remarks about her loose behavior, he convinces himself that it is only a question of perseverance until she yields to him. This continued sensual yearning, coupled with self-delusion about her, is an indication of his confusion, which is the direct result of his unwillingness and inability to come to terms with his case.

It will turn out that her refusal to listen to K. could have worked to his advantage, had he taken her advice that he should rely on himself. However, this argument makes sense only if we assume that his proper handling of his own case could eventually lead to his acquittal. Clearly, though, there are at least as many passages in The Trial that foreshadow the opposite. It cannot be emphasized often enough that the "guilt"

K. incurs by mishandling his case is not the same as the original guilt on whose account he has been arrested in the first place. The former is more like a series of tactical errors, whereas the latter results from his basic moral insensitivity. Of course, they are connected with each other in the sense that K. fails to defend himself adequately because his moral deficiency keeps him from assessing the nature of his case and the seriousness of his position correctly.

The overall mood of the chapter is one of K. feeling ridiculed and deceived by the two women, individually and as a team, as well as by the suave Captain Lanz. K. feels, above all, watched. K.'s preoccupation with feeling watched, actually being watched, and watching others himself, deserves special mention. It is an indication of K.'s (and Kafka's) almost neurotic desire to pin down every single aspect of every single ramification of everything going on around or within him. It is the psychological expression of his craving for total transparency against which the priest will warn him: "It is not necessary to accept everything as true, only as necessary."

Pop Quiz!

How is K. executed?


I know that a fathom is a unit of measure used by sailors, but how long is a fathom?

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