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The Trial | Motifs


Sex and the Court

Sex and seduction are described as a means used by those women in some way attached to the court to deflect the accused from pursuing his case. For example, when K. visits his lawyer to talk over his case, Leni lures him away for an assignation. She uses her seductiveness to prevent K. from (supposedly) making any headway in his trial. The woman at the court also seduces K. and distracts him from his legal purpose. It might be argued that because these women are close to the court or to those involved with the court, the court system uses them to undermine the efforts of the accused.


Throughout the book, there are people who are involved with the court who are described as having bodies that are deformed, either permanently or temporarily, Leni has webbed fingers. Dr. Huld is ill, often so much so that he is unable to walk or leave his bed. Others, from the accused to the prison chaplain, are pressed down by low ceilings that force them to be bent over in what must be extremely uncomfortable postures when they are acting in or with the court. Deforming the human body supports the inhuman role of the court and the way it treats people.


The motif of waiting underlines the importance of status and the power it confers, while at the same time reflecting the impotence of those who seek to engage with it. The accused sit on benches in the court building and seem to wait endlessly. They appear as if they have given up their lives and been forced to do nothing but wait. The priest shares with K. a parable of a man who waited his whole life at the doorway of the law, hoping to be allowed to enter and learn something of it, only to die unfulfilled. This supports the concept of the remote indifference of the law and the hopelessness of engaging with it. Waiting is not limited to the accused. When K. keeps the businessmen at the bank waiting for him for hours, he is asserting his status and power over them. Waiting reveals the hierarchy of those who do the waiting and those who are waited for.

Hierarchy and Status

Throughout the novel, Josef K. is judging others' status against his own. He is arrogant and rude to those he deems of lower status than himself. He is very judgmental of those who he believes are beneath him, and he treats them badly. His haughty, not to say snobbish, dismissal of and insulting behavior toward those he judges as lower than himself quite often gets Josef K. in trouble, especially by damaging his case. As Josef K. is pulled ever deeper into the court system, he begins to lose some of his hauteur. He begins to realize that when it comes to the court and the law, perhaps the criteria he uses for judging others is faulty.

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