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The Trial

The Trial


by Franz Kafka

The Trial Chapter 4 Summary

In the empty courtroom / The student / The offices

  • Despite the fact that K. has refused any further interrogations, he still expects a summons to appear the next Sunday. When a summons doesn't arrive, he decides to go to court anyway.
  • This time, the woman is at the door again, but she tells K. that there are no sessions that day. She opens the door to the next room and reveals an empty hall.
  • K. then realizes that the room they're standing in has been turned into a living room. The woman explains that she and her husband, the court usher, live there. The man who mauled her the past Sunday, however, was not her husband, but a randy law student who she entertains and her husband tolerates because they fear he will become a powerful judge one day.
  • The woman then takes K.'s hand and asks him if he wants to change the system. He demurs, but offers to help her if she helps him, by letting him look at the examining magistrate's law books in the courtroom, for example.
  • She gladly takes him to the table. K. is surprised to find that the books aren't law books, but pornography.
  • As they sit on the step, the woman admires K.'s eyes and tells him a little about the examining magistrate, who works long nights drawing up lengthy reports. The examining magistrate also has a thing for the woman, and the woman offers to help K. get on the examining magistrate's good side.
  • Bertold, the student, then interrupts their little chat, but before she leaves, the woman tells K. she wants to run away with him. K. is suspicious that she might be working for the court, but is pleased at the thought of seducing a woman that the entire court seems to have the hots for.
  • Then he notices that Bertold has started loudly kissing the woman. K. tries to save the woman, but Bertold tells him to back off – he's taking the woman to the magistrate. As they leave, K. realizes that this is his first "clear defeat […] at the hands of these people" (5.3).
  • Curious, K. tries to figure out where the law student took the woman, and finds himself outside the apartment, in front of a little sign that says "Law Court Offices Upstaires" in childish handwriting. K. is surprised that the offices would be in such a miserable little attic on top of a residential apartment building.
  • Just then, the court usher walks by and offers to take K. on a tour of the offices while he delivers a report. K. can't resist, and follows the usher in.
  • In the hallway, K. sees a few officials at work, and then some people sitting on wooden benches along the hall. The usher explains that the people are defendants just like K. Intrigued, K. asks one of the defendants what he's waiting for. The defendant, who can barely stand up straight, is so flustered that he can hardly answer the question and screams when K. takes his arm. A guard comes over to see what's going on.
  • K. then sees a turn to the right, and the usher says it's OK for him to pass. After a few steps, K. decides he's ready to leave, and asks the usher to accompany him on the way out. The usher refuses because he's already late delivering his report.
  • A young woman and a well-dressed man approach K. at this point. The woman asks if he needs any help, but K. can't seem to reply. The woman asks if he's dizzy, and K. suddenly realizes that he's unwell and needs to sit.
  • The woman explains that a lot of people have a hard time getting used to the stuffy air in the office, and offers to take K. to the infirmary, but K. asks them to help him out to the exit instead. The woman explains to K. that the well-dressed man is the information officer, and they both help him out to the exit.
  • Once K. leaves the building, he feels loads better in the fresh air and even leaps down the steps.

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