The Trial: chapter 3

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Chapter 3

K. waits for a week for a follow-up summons and when it doesn’t arrive he decides to return to the same address on Sunday morning. The washerwoman, who lives in the Court and whose husband is the Court Usher, opens the door and tells him there is no Court session. K. is reminded that it was her scream that brought his speech to an end at his initial hearing. The man in question, she explains, was a law student who is wild about her. K. realizes that she is flirting with him. She tells him she might be able to help him because recently the judge has been making advances toward her and had given her a gift of silk stockings.

At this point, a red-bearded law student comes in and she tells K. she must leave because he was sent by the judge: such “tyranny the student held over the woman” (28).  She promises to return and K. becomes jealous of the judge and realizes how much he desires this woman. He fantasizes about leaving with her and how when the judge sends for her she would no longer be there “because she belonged to K., because this woman at the window, this lush, supple, warm body in its sombre clothes of rough, heavy material belonged to him, totally to him and to him alone” (28). He begins to argue with the student to leave the washerwoman alone but the student carries her away after she insists they go because the judge has called for her.

The student carries her up a short flight of stairs to the attic. Soon after, the Court Usher returns and inquires of K. about his wife. The Usher, who is used to these escapades, feels helpless but realizes one day the student will be an important figure in the Court. The Usher asks if K. wants to see the Law offices and K. does not believe such important offices could be located in such a lowly attic.

In the darkly lighted attic, an assortment of accused, dejected- looking men sit waiting: “many details which were hard to identify showed that they belonged to the upper classes” (31). K. attempts a conversation with one.  However, the man is confused and demoralized. As K. and the Usher walk on K. suddenly feels dizzy and has to be supported by a young girl and another worker. It’s the heavy air, she assures him, and explains that all the litigants react the same way during their first visit. They help him out where he gulps in deep breaths of air to revive.



In chapter three, Joseph K. begins to lose his earlier air of confidence.  He never receives a summons from the Court, yet he goes there of his own volition merely because he feels he should. Again, no one forces him. There is an underlying reason for his actions.  He meets the nameless washerwoman again and feels gratified that she finds him attractive.  He finds her absolutely desirable when he learns that she is also desired by the judge.  In this, he enters into a contest between himself and the power of the Court and loses when the woman is carried away by the obnoxious student.   At this point, the entrance of the women’s husband puts her at two removes from K. and three, if one counts the student.  K. is powerless and the manly confidence he exhibited earlier with Miss Burstner wanes.

K. finds himself at the entrance of the Courtroom and trips on a hidden step, which, in effect, indicates that the Court tricks people, causing them to fall and injure themselves. K. exclaims “they don't show much concern for the public” (31).  In the dark, decrepit attic K. begins to feel ill.  The description of the attic Courtroom offices suggest that K. is already in prison:  “there was no direct source of light . . . instead of solid walls [it] had just wooden bars reaching up to the ceiling (31).” Thematically, this setting provides an example of enclosure which continues throughout the novel.  Recall the description of K.’s bedroom in chapter one. This dizziness causes him so much distress that he has to be held up by a young woman and another Court staffer. The dignified-looking accused man suggests to him perhaps that he will similarly have to continue to fight his case and wind up just as sniveling, discomposed and confused. Is Joseph K.’s trail an internal trial that he must experience to cope with his own feelings of guilt? 

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