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.
"You mustn't pay too much attention to opinions. The text is immutable, and the opinions are often only an expression of despair over it." (9.16)
The priest certainly seems to contradicting himself. If we're not supposed to pay attention to opinions, why does he give us so many opinions? The priest only seems to give us interpretations in order to show how indifferent the text is to these interpretations. This seems to fit in with K.'s experience with the Law: even as he struggles to defend his innocence, to explain himself to the courts, the courts are indifferent to his efforts.
"No," said the priest, "you don't have to consider everything true, you just have to consider it necessary." "A depressing opinion," said K. "Lies are made into a universal system." (9.16)
This is probably the most direct statement the priest makes about the story. The story is not concerned with matters of truth, whether it is verifiable in the real world. (No, there isn't an actual gatekeeper somewhere out there, there isn't a gate before the law, there's no actual man from the country trying to gain admittance, etc. – these are all part of the story's fiction, and don't exist in the real world.) All the story really cares about is what is necessary, what makes sense, within its own boundaries – just like the court, which doesn't really care about the actual innocence of your average Joe, but only about maintaining its own system where everyone's guilty. Just like the novel, in fact, which has created its own fictional world and can't really be verifiable in the real world.
[K.] was too tired to take in all of the consequences of the story; they led him into unaccustomed areas of thought, toward abstract notions more suited for discussion by the officials of the court than by him. The simple tale had become shapeless; he wanted to shake off the thought of it. (9.17)
Perhaps that's what K. ought to do – shake off the story and the court. Perhaps all of these interpretations – and, by extension, his struggles with his trial – are just a way to keep him from living a normal life.