Study Guide

The Trial Sex

By Franz Kafka


I'm fascinated with court matters. The court has a strange attraction, doesn't it? But I'll certainly increase my knowledge in that area, because I start next month as a secretary in a law firm. (2.10)

The term "court" may as well be interchangeable with "sex" here. That Fraülein Bürstner is becoming a secretary in a law firm is doubly ironic because, as we learn throughout the novel, all the women associated with the courts have a tendency to sleep with anyone remotely associated with the courts.

You needn't spare me in any way. If you want it spread around that I assaulted you, that's what Frau Grubach will be told and what she will believe, without losing confidence in me, that's how devoted she is to me. (2.11)

K.'s willingness to take on the guilt for a crime he didn't commit is odd, given that he struggles so much against his indictment for a crime he may or may not have committed. This passage introduces the association of sexual violence and criminal guilt that we get throughout the novel.

K. […] rushed out, seized her, kissed her on the mouth, then all over her face, like a thirsty animal lapping greedily at a spring it had found at last. (2.11)

K. here virtually attacks Fraülein Bürstner, "like a thirsty animal," as she seems to barely tolerate his embraces. Ironically, he's actually committing the crime – sexual violence – that he was going to take the guilt for to protect Fraülein Bürstner (see Quote #2).

K. opened the book on top, and an indecent picture was revealed […] K didn't leaf through any further, but simply opened to the frontispiece of the second book, a novel entitled The Torments Grete Suffered at the Hands of Her Husband Hans. (4.1)

K. gets a nasty surprise when he takes a flip through what he thought were the examining magistrate's law books. Instead, he discovers a lot of porn. The court's "attraction" to guilt (see Quote #1 above) is given an obscene twist here in the judge's own taste in erotic fiction.

You have beautiful dark eyes […] they say I have beautiful eyes as well, but yours are much more beautiful. By the way, I was struck by them right away, the first time you came here. (4.1)

Women seem to throw themselves at K. left and right, just as the law is "attracted" to his guilt.

I recruit women helpers, he thought, almost amazed: first Fraülein Bürstner, then the court usher's wife, and now this little nurse, who seems to have an inexplicable desire for me. (6.3)

You have to laugh at the egotism of K.'s being "almost" amazed. "Almost" amazed? That suggests that K. expects to be attractive to women.

"What a pretty claw!" Leni watched with a kind of pride as K. opened and closed her two fingers repeatedly in astonishment, until he finally kissed them lightly and released them. (6.3)

The thing that K. doesn't really seem to appreciate is that the women who do throw themselves at him are all associated with the court, and seem to get more attracted to him the closer they are to the court's operations. It seems to make these women more attractive to K. as well, as he views Leni's web-like hand with affection rather than disgust.

"My boy," [the uncle] cried, "how could you do it! You've damaged your case terribly, when it was starting out so well." (6.3)

The uncle's expression of horror at K.'s behavior – that he was making out with the maid while serious discussions about his trial were taking place – is pretty much the reader's reaction. But later on, even Huld seems to accept K.'s erotic adventures with good humor (see Quote #9 below).

The defendants are simply the most attractive. It can't be the guilt that makes them attractive […] it must be the result, then, of the proceedings being brought against them, which somehow adheres to them. (9.7)

Huld merely confirms the running joke in the novel that K. is irresistible to women just by virtue of the fact that he's on trial.

But it made no difference to K. whether it was really Fraülein Bürstner; the futility of resistance was suddenly clear to him. (10.5)

After all of K.'s encounters with women in the novel, we get, in Chapter 10, one last woman. Only this time it's an anonymous woman, and K. is following the woman, rather than the other way around. It's as if the novel is stressing again the close connection between K.'s sexuality and his criminality by having this figure shadow his last moments.

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