Joseph K. is in trouble, and he doesn't know why. Accused of a crime the details of which he is not privy to, his life becomes one impossible search for an acquittal. All his energies are throwing into determining his crime and a way to prove his innocence, but ultimately his efforts are in vain and he perishes at the hands of the court. The way in which K. leads his life during the trial determines what end he meets. A priest offers him some advice in the form of a parable, but K. fails to recognize the relevancy of it to his own life. The parable of the doorkeeper illustrates that meaning, in any sense of the term, must be drawn directly from an individual's choices; there is no greater or ultimate meaning to any individual's life, or anything in one's life, beyond that which one gives it.
[...] The answers to these questions are not as important as the act of asking the questions themselves, but the conclusions that one draws from them require a radical shift in one's thinking. Barrett elaborates: The individual is thrust out of the sheltered nest that society has provided. He can no longer hide his nakedness by the old disguises. He learns how much of what he has taken for granted was by its own nature neither eternal nor necessary but thoroughly temporal and contingent. [...]
[...] Just as the man seeking the Law gives the Law undue meaning and is unaware of his error, K. gives the court and his trial undue influence over his life by the choices he makes pertaining to them. K.'s greatest error is in his choice to indulge the court and his trial as salient, effective forces, when in reality they have only as much power as he gives them. From the first time K. is introduced to the agents of the court, they do not limit his actions or make life-altering demands of him. [...]
[...] Following the same logic, this choice demands acceptance of an even more dire consequence: the man dies, having spent his entire life “grow[ing] childish [ and] beg[ging] the very fleas [in his fur collar] to help him [ ] persuade the doorkeeper to change his mind.” (214) The man's choices ultimately necessitate the relinquishment of his life, and he dies having failed not only to gain admittance to the Law, but also to lead a life of any great meaning or effect. [...]
[...] K.'s error is that he fails to understand that the trial is what he makes it to be, just as anything else in his life is meaningful because he gives it meaning. By removing himself from that position of ability and handing it over to society at large, K. essentially loses control of his own destiny. The trial, and his life, spin out of his control once he allows others to determine their courses for him. His premature death is the final, unfortunate, result. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee