Study Guide

The Trial Chapter 8

By Franz Kafka

Chapter 8

Block the Merchant, Dismissal of the Lawyer

  • K. decides to dismiss his lawyer once and for all. When he arrives at Huld's, the door is opened by a man, and K. spies Leni running across the hallway in her slip. Naughty Leni. The man introduces himself as Block, a merchant, and denies having an affair with Leni.
  • K. pulls Block to the lawyer's study, and asks Block whether he knows who the man in the painting is. Block says it's a high judge, but K. corrects him and says that it's actually a low judge.
  • K. then demands to know where Leni is, and Block takes K. to the kitchen, where Leni is cooking up soup for the lawyer.
  • When Leni leaves the kitchen to take soup to the lawyer, K. and Block have a chat about Block's situation. Block reveals that he has five "shysters," lawyers in addition to Huld. Block has devoted his entire life to his trial, even taking money from his own business to work on his defense.
  • Block also tells K. that he's seen K. before at the court offices, on the day when K. almost fainted there. Block was one of the defendants K. passed in the waiting room. Block tells K. of one of the many superstitions: that the face of the defendant gives away the result of the trial. Everyone thinks from K.'s face that he's…guilty, naturally. That doesn't hearten K.
  • Block explains that he was led to hire the shysters because he wasn't seeing any concrete results from Huld. Block then tells K. that, in addition to shysters, lawyers are divided into the petty lawyers, like Huld, and the great lawyers, who no one has ever seen or contacted, but are rumored to exist.
  • Leni returns to the kitchen, and tells K. that Huld is ready to see K. To K.'s surprise, Leni adds that humble Block actually sleeps in the maid's room. Unlike K., who Huld will see at this late hour, Huld sometimes refuses to see Block for days on end, so Block just camps out in the maid's room until Huld is ready for him.
  • Block reminds K. that K. promised to share a secret with him. K. declares that he plans to dismiss Huld. Block and Leni are shocked. Leni chases K. to Huld's room, but K. locks the door behind him so that Leni can't enter.
  • Huld doesn't seem surprised by K.'s behavior. He seems amused by the fact that Leni is chasing K., and explains to K. that defendants just seem irresistibly attractive in general.
  • K. declares that he no longer wishes Huld to represent him. Huld tries to dissuade K., but K. won't change his mind.
  • Then Huld calls Leni to the room and asks her to call Block in. She does, then takes her place behind K., strokes his head with her fingers until he grabs her hand.
  • Block comes in timidly, and K. cynically notes that this is all a "performance" to show how awesome Huld is (8.10). Block kneels beside Huld's bed, and anxiously gestures toward Leni to help him out. Huld asks Leni whether Block's been good, and Leni reports that Block has spent the day studying the papers that Huld had given him.
  • Huld then informs Block that he has some bad news from one of the judges, who has a low opinion of Block. The judge had scoffed and asked Huld how Block would feel if he knew that his trial hadn't even begun, that the bell that rings in the beginning of a trial had not yet rung?
  • This sends Block into shock, but Huld angrily tells him to stop being so anxious. The chapter ends abruptly as Leni tells Block to pay attention to Huld.