Study Guide

The Trial Setting

By Franz Kafka


An unspecified modern city

Kafka's The Trial is not situated in a specific city or a specific historical moment, but the features of this city are relatively modern. The action of the story begins at K.'s lodging house, then shifts to the court offices, which are located an impoverished neighborhood. The rest of the action takes place at K.'s bank, his lawyer Huld's apartment, a cathedral, and finally, a stone quarry outside the town where K. is executed.

With each new setting, the novel defies conventional expectations as to what the function and significance of the setting is. The courts, for example, are usually associated with government authority and power, but in the novel, they are located in a rundown neighborhood that bears the scars of urban crowding and industrialization. A majestic cathedral is not a place of spirituality, but a site contaminated by modern (read: bad) paintings and easily infiltrated by a court official like the prison chaplain. By leaving specific place names and dates out of the story, Kafka creates a story that is more generic and universal, inviting the reader to consider how spaces reflect the general decay of human society in the modern era.

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