The Trial: Top Ten Quotations

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” P. 1 The compelling opening line of The Trial that sets the dark mysterious tone.

“Theres no mistake there.   Our authorities as far as I know, and I only know the lowest grades, dont go out looking for guilt among the public; its the guilt that draws them out, like it says in the law, and they have to send us police officers out.  Thats the law.”P. 3 The clownish police men, Franz and Willem, who arrest K. attempt to explain that they have not make their trip to his bedroom in error. From the beginning Ks guilt is assumed.  Innocent is simply not an option.

“That follows from the fact that Ive been indicted, but cant think of the slightest  offence for which I could be indicted.  But even that is all beside the point, the main question is: Who is issuing the indictment?” P.6 K. says this to the fumbling Supervisor at the interrogation in Miss Burstner’s bedroom.  K. dies at the hands of the Law never having learned of what crime he is accused and who accused him. 

“He stood pressed closely against the table, the press of the crowd behind him was so great that he had to press back against it if he did not want to push the judges desk down off the podium and perhaps the judge along with it.” P. 20 Although the atmosphere in the attic court is dark, and the antics of the judge and audience even darker, it is nevertheless a mistake not to stand back and view the comedic aspects of Kafka’s writing.

“What has happened to me is not just an isolated case.  If it were it would not be of much importance as its not of much importance to me, but it is a symptom of proceedings which are carried out against many.  Its on behalf of them that I stand here now, not for myself alone.” P. 21 At this point in the novel, K. is still confident and strong and views himself as somewhat of a hero who defends others.  In time, however, he will diminish physically and mentally as the proceedings against him continue unabated.

“They dont show much concern for the public,” P. 31 K. says this after he trips on a hidden step on the way into the dark and dreary attic courtroom. It demonstrates a first negative impression of the Law and how it attempts to trick and hurt people since, after all, all it touches are guilty and never proven innocent.

“But the air is almost impossible to breathe on days when theres a lot of business, and thats almost every day… its not surprising you started to feel unwell.  But you get used to the air alright in the end.  When youre here for the second or third time youll hardly notice how oppressive the air is. P. 34 In the attic labyrinth, K. encounters a young female officer of the court who helps him. He gets dizzy and she attempts to reassure him that he will get used to the stifling, oppressive atmosphere.In short, K’s case will not be resolved any time soon. He will get used to oppression. He is diminished from his earlier healthier and confident self.

“Im not going to wait any longer,” said the whip-man, taking hold of the cane in both hands and laying in to Franz while Willem cowered back in a corner and looked on secretly, not even daring to turn his head.  Then, the sudden scream that shot out from Franz was long and irrevocable, it seemed to come not from a human being but from an instrument that was being tortured, the whole corridor rang with it, it must have been heard by everyone in the building.”P. 41 K. reacts with horror to this closet torture scene involving the two policemen who arrested him. He feels intense guilt after finding the buffoons in this situation and realizes how insidious the Court actually is and that punishments are always carried out.

“The first documents submitted are usually mislaid or lost completely, and even if they do keep them right to the end they are hardly read… This is all very regrettable, but not entirely without its justifications.  But K. should not forget that the trial would not be public, if the court deems it necessary it can be made public but there is no law that says it has to be.As a result, the accused and his defence dont have access even to the court records, and especially not to the indictment, and that means we generally dont know—or at least not precisely— what the first documents need to be about, which means that if they do contain anything of relevance to the case its only by a lucky coincidence.” P. 55 K.s’ lawyer expounds on the workings of the Court inadvertently pointing out not only the nonsensical formalities of the Court, who believes that everyone is innately guilty, but also his own ineptitude.  If there is never a reason to actually prove anything, why go through all the nonsense?

“As his eyesight failed, K. saw the two gentlemen cheek by cheek, close in front of his face, watching the result. “Like a dog!” he said, it was as if the shame of it should outlive him.” P. 111 The closing sentences of the novel where two policemen, reminiscent of the opening chapter’s policemen, kill K. whose life has diminished so much that he has become like the businessman Block, a dog.