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The World as Stage

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Theatrical metaphors permeate Kafka's The Trial, giving the events in the novel an unreal, even farcical quality. From the get-go, the main character wonders if his arrest is a joke and whether the guards are merely play-acting; he doesn't know whether he should take the events seriously. He even dramatizes his arrest for Fraülein Bürstner, taking pleasure in starring in his own play.

K. never seems to get over this problem as his actions seem to conflict with the seriousness of his situation, as seen in his defiant speeches at the initial inquiry or his dalliance with Leni at Huld's. But, in all fairness to K., the novel doesn't seem to give him much of an opportunity as it throws one absurd element after another his way, with random comic touches such as the arresting guards' obsession with his underwear to the examining magistrate's pornography. More extended scenes such as Huld's humiliation of Block have the same timing and physical humor of a skit on Saturday Night Live. K. can't shake his theatrical obsession even at the end of the novel, when he refers to his executioners as "supporting actors."

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