It is in the nature of Kafka's major works that they can (and have been) interpreted in so many ways. The surreal and dream like qualities of an alternative world pervaded by dark symbolism, yet told in a chilling matter-of-fact style, and always containing some kind of archetypal and trans formative event that is left to the reader to try to make sense of where the narrator has failed. In 'Metamorphosis' it is a radical and immediate change of identity, in 'The Castle' it is the journey that will never reach a conclusion. In this novel - 'The Trial', it is the struggle of the individual against society, who Josef K, wakes up to find one morning, has laid unknown charges against him.

Here, right from the first sentence, we have the classic Kafka horror of the private, inner world being invaded and laid bare to the power and mercy of others. It is in K's own apartment that he learns of his arrest, yet rather than be led off immediately to a cell or to a courthouse, he gradually discovers that his entire world, once safe and familiar, has become his prison, and all the people in it his jurors. As in Metamorphosis, the dividing line between the self and it's external world has come crashing down.


Objective truth here K discovers is a myth, reality is determined by primitive power relationships, themselves seemingly decided by financial corruption or sexual favors.

That the reader is left to decide between so many different meanings is to my mind, the mark of the genius of Kafka. Perhaps there is no one correct interpretation of any of his nightmarish parables. In fact the stories seem to be designed in order to be able to speak a truth alone and unique to each individual. As a reader of both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the highly sensitive Kafka was acutely aware of the brutal struggle that is the inherent nature of life, where objective truth is simply an illusory product of this struggle and justice always an unattainable ideal. We read The Trial and benefit from it, not because we are presented with another illusion of universal truth, but because in entering Kafka's shifting, allegorical worlds, we learn to recognize the illusions of our own.