K.'s Teachers

Where is Joseph K.? I speak plainly as I imagine Kafka would appreciate, but I also speak in parable as he so often did. Kafka, or rather the narrator dictates obviously where K. is, he is under arrest. What is left uncertain is by whom. He may be under the arrest of a man, or men. He may also be under the arrest of the Law. If he is under the arrest of the Law the question shifts into how the Law can arrest anyone, the Law is only words sculpted by some omniscient being (at least in terms of The Trial it must be some non-human, as no human can understand/know the Law, only parts of the Law).

Focusing on the concept of being under the arrest of the Law, to be seized by words of some greater being, merely because it is the most interesting and problematic of all questions arising within and around The Trial, one can begin to see a small glimmer of the Kafkan absurdity that engulfs every one of his texts. How can words arrest a man? That is, how can words, the fickle meaningless signs men believe they control, seize or take hold of a man? At what point does the language begin to engulf the user of language.

Throughout his trial, Joseph K. is consistently meeting people who are willing to advise him. They each shed a little light of information to K to reveal the Law. But this light they have worked so hard to procure and so desperately try to impart does nothing for K. as he progresses through the time of the story as arrogant and positive of his innocence as ever.

K. is guided through the courts by many people who seem to work around and for the courts. The connection between the Law and the court seems rather ambiguous to the point where anyone involved with the court seems to only be aware there is Law and that it tells them what to do.

Two characters interacting with K. serve to be particularly interesting the way they are described by Kafka. The Lawyer, Huld, and the Painter, Titorelli, seem to exchange roles and act as opposite of their titles. Artists, in Kafka texts, are generally in a state of perpetual dying. This is most notably seen in The Hunger Artist. (McGowan) One would assume the painter to be the artist and the lawyer to be a lawyer. But Kafka seems to push Huld as the artist as he is perpetually dying. Huld also gives K. very little information about the Law directly but rather gives K. information anecdotally. This anecdotal revelation is more common among artists using words, images and general symbols to share the "truth" or in this case it would be the Law.

Titorelli gives K. a waterfall of information in one solid swoop and without any hesitation. He tells K. the three options for a case to be tried and informs him of how he, the painter, can assist to push it through this way. The painter is obviously taking the roll of a lawyer. Also consider the paintings of the painter. K. comments on the use of pastel in the portrait. "My client wished it," the painter seems to be extremely willing to alter the outcome of his work at the will of his client. Again, this sounds more common among lawyers than painters but perhaps Titorelli is simply too poor to put up a fight over what to use to paint the portrait. The paintings Titorelli sells to K. are interesting in the way they are all the same. This sameness expresses the painter's inability to truly lie. He can only paint what he sees, in this case two stunted trees standing alone, he may attempt to reinterpret a scene, but he can only create it as it is, much the way he can only interpret the Law for K. as he knows or sees it. The figure of Justice Titorelli paints must share this inability to interpret things in new ways. He was given the subject of Justice and Nike to be formed in one body and his interpretation only resulted in the figure of the goddess of the Hunt. (Kittler) The narrator notes the similarity of this painting of the Judge as the painting within Huld's office which would have to have been painted by the court painter, Titorelli. Once again it seems Titorelli cannot create new interpretations of the same thing.

Why would Kafka reverse the roles of these two characters? Perhaps Kafka was trying to say something about the Law itself.

Painters work in paints and lawyers work in laws. Paints are colors that seize images to canvas, but laws are words that seize people to death? (It seems the Law must end its seizure in death as K. allows himself to die one year after his arrest, and Huld is allowing the Law to slowly kill him.) The question then becomes why Kafka would portray a man that works in words seizing people as an artist and a man that works in paints as a lawyer.

In this unraveling of Kafka's portrayal of the painter, it seems Titorelli cannot lie or hide the truth in an effective manner. His doors are open both to the girls in the building as well as the judges in the courts. He himself admits they both have keys. He also admits the weakness of the locks and that they can be broken. But though Titorelli is telling the truth, it proves to be of no use to K. as he is still brought to his death by the court.

The lawyer has still not been discussed in enough thorough detail. While the painter is first met in a section of a chapter entitled "Painter," the lawyer is met in a section of a chapter called "K.'s Uncle." The painter was established as a painter by the portrait in progress in his room, the Lawyer however, is justified as a lawyer by his simple statement "I am a lawyer, you see, I move in legal circles…" this is also the explanation of how he has come to know of K.'s trial. The Chief Clerk's presence is then revealed to K.'s surprise. There is little more mentioned of the case in this chapter as the narrative follows K. to his encounter with Leni, Huld's nurse.

The state of the case is revealed to some degree in the section of chapter seven (the same chapter as the meeting with the painter) labeled "Lawyer." The manner in which this is all revealed is quite interesting as it somewhat resembles a parable telling of a story. (McGowan) The narration is even more independent and impersonal than the rest of the novel is. (McGowan) This narration seems to generate a feeling of a telling of the workings of the court that has been passed down through the years from lawyer to lawyer. It is strikingly similar to the parable told by the priest of the doorkeeper (Before the Law). (McGowan) If the two parables are similar in that they are pieces of oral tradition on the workings of the court, perhaps they are of similar origin and share similar purposes.

The parable of the Lawyer projects a rather hopeless depiction of the future of any defendant. To be processed through trials of which the defendant has no actual say. He is to constantly endure the "harangues" of the man supposedly working for him and never stop in his efforts to win over the favor of the courts. It is when K. begins thinking of dismissing the lawyer from the case that the parable is broken and returns to the more familiar narrative of K.'s life.

Going back to the credentials of Huld as a lawyer, it seems the only thing that makes him a lawyer is his own claim to be a lawyer. The very position of a defendant is not necessarily accepted by the Law; therefore any defense brought forth by a defense lawyer could be negligible. For what purpose would any person, not accused by the Law, to learn about the Law and act as a mediator between the Law and the accused. It is not clear that there are any such people. When Huld says he moves in legal circles and must be a lawyer he claims people in the legal circles have knowledge of interesting cases. The man K. meets in the halls of the courts is seemingly not a lawyer, but a defendant. Yet he knows about K.'s case and so he must move in legal circles. What lawyer would talk in circles other than that of other lawyers in discussing interesting cases?

The line between defendant and lawyer becomes interestingly blurred and Huld becomes a possible defendant. One other interesting point leading to this possibility is his nurse/mistress, Leni. She likes the accused. She seems to like Huld.

Huld is also dying, slowly, but he is dying. The reason for this persistent death is not clear but it could be the Law imposing its punishment on Huld. While its killing of K. is quick, the styles of defense of the two men are obviously difference. K. seems to rashly act in belief of a pure Law that cannot hurt the innocent, whereas Huld acts with more finesse, possibly allowing him a greater time span of a Trial.

There is then, the priest, who acts as another type of teacher of the law to K. The priest is the prison chaplain and so serves as an end to the arrest of the Law on K. This is the last person K. which with K. shares words. The parable, and subsequently the whole novel, can be read then, that no one can ever reach the Law, but merely die trying, and in some ways the parable of the doorkeeper upholds this reading. The man died at the gate where he waited until he died.

This may not, however, be completely finite. "No one but you could gain admittance through this door, since this door was intended for you. I am now going to shut it." That is the Law. The door is for you and you alone and no one else can have it. There are doorkeepers at every door that stand in opposition to entry. They can be officers, women, soldiers, priests and sometimes even language, but the door is still only available to the reader.

This is a terrible thing to realize though, one gate per one person, means millions of laws for millions of people. The consequence is the realization that there cannot be a "Law" with a capital 'L' just the law, which people think they know.


Kittler, Wolf. "Burial Without Resurrection. On Kafka's Legend

"Before the Law".." MLN 121, 3Apr 2006 647-678.Dec 2006 http://search. John. "The Trial: Terminable/Interminable."

Twentieth Century Literature 26, 1Spring80 1-14. Dec2006 http://search. Rachel. "Waiting at the entrance to the Law: modernism, gender and democracy.."

Textual Practice 14,2Summer2000 253-263. Dec2006 http://search.