by Franz Kafka
The Trial Philosophical Viewpoints Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Breon Mitchell's translation.
[I]t was not impossible that he might receive some form of decisive and acceptable advice from [the prison chaplain], something that might show him, for example, not how to influence the trial, but how to break out of it, how to get around it, how to live outside the trial. (9.13)
"How to live outside the trial" is pretty much the holy grail of the novel – fervently desired and hoped for, but never achieved. Instead, the prison chaplain gives K. some tools to cope with the trial, as we shall see in his attempt to teach K. how to read the parable of the Law.
"Don't be too hasty," said the priest, "don't accept another's person's opinion unthinkingly. I've told you the story word for word according to the text. It says nothing about deception." (9.16)
The priest gives K. some good advice when it comes to reading a text. K. is so absorbed in his own troubles that he doesn't concentrate on the text. The priest tells K. not to accept another person's opinion without carefully evaluating it first, and also to base his interpretation on the text itself, rather than just jumping to conclusions. That's pretty good advice for reading The Trial itself, by the way, and you shouldn't unthinkingly accept our humble attempts at explaining the novel either.
"The commentators tell us: the correct understanding of a matter and misunderstanding the matter are not mutually exclusive." (9.16)
How could that possibly be? Well, one way to look at it is this: the story is, yes, puzzling. There is no one way to understand the story; it seems to generate infinite possibilities for interpretations. We can never know if our interpretation is the "correct understanding" or a "misunderstanding" because there's always another interpretation out there that we haven't considered. Thus we can try our best to come up with the best interpretation of the story, and in fact we should try our best, but we should also be aware that our interpretation is only an interpretation and will always be limited as such.