by Franz Kafka
The Trial Power Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Breon Mitchell's translation.
[H]e realized at once that he shouldn't have spoken aloud, and that by doing so he had, in a sense, acknowledged the stranger's right to oversee his actions (1.1)
From the get-go, we're introduced to a world where all aspects of everyday life are subject to surveillance.
After all, K. lived in a state governed by law, there was universal peace, all statutes were in force; who dared assault him in his own lodgings? (1.1)
We're never told what power exactly has the authority to arrest K., and this passage suggests that there is a power at work in society in addition to the legitimate state apparatus. (See also the end of the novel, where K. and his executioners have to elude the police, who are part of the legitimate state apparatus.) Such a passage has often been read as an allegory for totalitarian states, where the main political power resides in a party (like the Nazi party), rather than the official government.
[T]here can be no doubt that behind all the pronouncements of this court, and in my case, behind the arrest and today's inquiry, there exists an extensive organization […] And the purpose of this extensive organization, gentlemen? It consists of arresting innocent people and introducing senseless proceedings against them, which for the most part, as in my case, go nowhere. Given the senselessness of the whole affair, how could the bureaucracy avoid becoming entirely corrupt? (3.27)
Here, K. decries the immense bureaucracy that masterminds the persecution of an ordinary citizen like himself. The bureaucracy seems to exist to support itself, rather than society, a feeling that a lot of people have when they encounter a government bureaucracy like the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Internal Revenue Service.