Study Guide

The Trial Chapter 3

By Franz Kafka

Chapter 3

Initial Inquiry

  • On the telephone at his bank, K. is told that an inquiry will take place on Sunday. After hanging up, he notices the vice president behind him also waiting to make a call. The vice president invites him on a boat ride that same Sunday, but K. refuses, even though it's a big deal to be invited by the vice president, particularly since they didn't get along.
  • K. then realizes that he was never told what time to arrive at the court on Sunday, but decides to arrive at 9 to be on the safe side.
  • Sunday arrives, and K. heads off to the suburb where the courts are located. By chance, he comes across the three clerks who had accompanied him to the bank on the day of his arrest.
  • When he arrives at the correct address, K. is puzzled to find himself in one of the poorer residential neighborhoods. He wasn't give any particular room or floor number, so he decides to check each of the rooms and ask for a carpenter named Lanz, a name he thinks of because it's his landlady's nephew's name. (Of course, why he doesn't just ask for the courts is left unexplained.)
  • Looking for a non-existent carpenter named Lanz proves to be a great strategy for getting into a lot of apartments, K. finds, until he comes across a woman washing diapers in a tub. When he asks her for Lanz, she invites him in.
  • When he enters, K. finds himself in a hall filled up to the galleries with people. A little boy takes K.'s hand and leads him up to the platform, where a man sits at a table talking to another table behind him. The man, who turns out to be the examining magistrate, chides K. for being over an hour late, and everybody in the hall murmurs, seemingly in agreement.
  • The examining magistrate invites K. to step onto the platform. The examining magistrate then opens what appears to be a ratty schoolbook, and asks K. if he's a house painter. K. replies that he's actually the chief financial officer of a bank. Everybody sitting on the right side of the hall laughs, and K. laughs with them. He's acutely aware of everybody in the hall as a kind of audience, who either boo or applaud whatever he says.
  • Emboldened by what he feels to be at least some of the spectators' support, K. goes off on the examining magistrate and the whole affair of his arrest. A few spectators applaud him.
  • K. goes on to denounce the court as a farce and calls everyone involved – the guards, the inspector, and the magistrate – a scoundrel. Despite the relative silence of the spectators, K. goes on to denounce the corruption of the entire, vast judicial system of which the magistrate is a part.
  • Suddenly, his speech is interrupted by a shriek. K. turns, and realizes that it's not a woman's shriek, as it turns out, but a man's, a man who happens to be assaulting the washerwoman. No one interrupts them.
  • Curious, K. takes a closer look at the audience, who all seem to be old men with scraggly beards. He then notices that they're all wearing badges of some kind, and realizes that the spectators are all officials, just like the magistrate he was denouncing as a scoundrel. K. hurls insults at them all and proceeds to the exit.
  • The magistrate warns K. that, with his insulting speeches, he's lost any advantage he might have gained at the interrogation. K. scoffs and refuses to participate in any more interrogations, and charges out of the hall.

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