The Trial: chapter 7
Feeling despondent, K. sits in his office one snowy morning trying to get work done but he cannot focus: “he sat there immobile with his head sunk down on his chest” (55). He can’t think of anything but his trial and wonders whether he should write a report detailing every event of his life for the Court and explain why he made the decisions he did at the time. Besides, although he has met with his lawyer, to date the man has done absolutely nothing: “the Lawyer . . . did not ask questions but did all the talking himself or sat silently facing him, leant forward slightly over the desk, probably because he was hard of hearing, pulled on a strand of hair in the middle of his beard and looked down at the carpet” (55). The Lawyer had explained, however, “that the accused and his defence don't have access even to the Court records, and especially not to the indictment, and that means we generally don't know—or at least not precisely what the first documents need to be about, which means that if they do contain anything of relevance to the case” (55). K.’s reminiscences of what his lawyer has explained, and subsequently unexplained, cause him to feel great anxiety: “was the Lawyer trying to comfort K. or to confuse him?” (60). This, in turn, causes a responding sense of panic to set in.
He tells himself that enough people now know about his trial, there is no choice whether to accept it or turn it down. However, he is a smart, resourceful person. Just look at how well he has advanced at the bank. He tells himself that the most important thing was to deny any notion of guilt. He realizes that he has to fire his lawyer. He can, after all, produce any necessary documents, keep on top of his case every day and perhaps he could ask one of the women to make sure his documents were read. He feels determined to defend himself.
However, his determination soon wanes and he finds himself unable to concentrate not only on the paperwork for the Court but on his job. He keeps important clients waiting. One such client, a manufacturer who does manage to see K., brings K. a great business opportunity, but K. cannot concentrate at all and when the Deputy Director passes in the hall, the manufacturer hails him and then leaves K. alone in his office while they conclude the business without him. K. also ignores other clients who have been waiting for hours. He thinks of taking a leave from the bank so he can focus exclusively on his trial.
As K. wastes more time looking out the window at the wintry weather, the manufacturer returns to talk to him: "you've got a trial going on, haven't you?” (66). The manufacturer tells K. about an artist named Titorelli, a vagabond of sorts who works for the Court and gives him a letter of introduction. K. makes weak excuses to the three clients whom he has kept waiting all morning and after the Deputy Director interferes and shows the men into his own office, K. dashes from the office happy to “devote more of himself to his own business for a while” (68).
He finds Titorelli in an attic in a poor, dirty part of town. The stairway up is full of young girls. K. notices one in particular, a girl of thirteen with a physical “defect,” a twisted spine. They surround him, follow him and call out to him as he ascends the staircase to Titorelli’s studio. The artist appears barefoot in his nightshirt and shows K. inside as the girls, who are visible through slats in the wall, surround them and call out to Titorelli.
When Titorelli asks him whether he is innocent, K. almost dies of joy. Finally, someone is talking to him about his case. Titorelli makes it clear, however, that K. doesn’t know the first thing about the Court system. Everything, he tells K., even the girls waiting outside, belong to the Court: "you still don't seem to have much general idea of what the Court's about” (74). He continues, “once the Court has made an accusation it is convinced of the guilt of the defendant and it's very hard to make it think otherwise" (74). In fact, Titorelli emphasizes that K. would have a better chance defending himself against judges of paintings than real Courtroom judges.
All the while, the panting girls outside never cease to attempt to distract Titorelli who explains to K. that in all his years working for the Court he has never seen an innocent man receive an acquittal but that he has known incidences of apparent acquittal and deferment. Titorelli can get K. either of them by talking to the judge while he paints him and guarantees K. personally: “apparent acquittal needs concentrated effort for a while and deferment takes much less effort but it has to be sustained” (76). Titorelli would also arrange for an introduction to the judge if necessary and even gather signatures from a variety of judges and that shortly thereafter K. would be free. However, Titorelli continues, he would only be temporarily free, never fully free because that is beyond his reach. But he placates K., telling him he won’t have any problems with the Court for years. Then, however, one day someone will notice the case is still active and he will be arrested once again. But, not to worry, K. can once more get a second acquittal. But this will be followed by another arrest, followed by another acquittal, and so on.
So much for apparent acquittal. Deferment, Titorelli states, also has advantages. The defendant is never free but he can keep postponing the legal proceedings by providing reasons. Besides, the interrogations are very short and K. would have to report to a judge periodically: “both have in common that they prevent the defendant being convicted” but they also prevent his being properly acquitted (79).
At this point, K. wants to leave, and he reaches for his coat. When he finds the door blocked by the girls Titorelli tells him to use the second door behind his bed, but not before selling him three gloomy landscapes from underneath his bed. As K. exits the room by stepping on the bed, he is shocked to find Court offices behind the door. Titorelli informs him every attic has Court offices and K. feels angry at his own naivete. The girls swarm around him as he the tries to find the door. Outside he hops in a cab and has the pictures taken to his office.
It is important to stand back occasionally and laugh with Kafka at the absurdity of the situation. Indeed, Kafka himself roared with laughter when he read his work to his friends. For example, consider when K. decides to examine his life in writing for the Court in an attempt to discover his crime: “it would contain a short description of his life and explain why he had acted the way he had at each event that was in any way important, whether he now considered he had acted well or ill, and his reasons for each” (55). Consider what carrying out such a task would entail!
The setting in chapter seven is particularly powerful and emphasizes K.’s mindset. At the chapter’s opening K. sits in his office: “the snow was still falling, the weather still had not brightened up at all” (64). This passage emphasizes K.’s predicament. Earlier, we’ve seen how Kafka utilizes windows and doors to illustrate K.’s imprisonment and freedom. Still in his office: “for no particular reason, just to avoiding returning to his desk for a while, he opened the window. It was difficult to open and he had to turn the handle with both his hands. Then, through the whole height and breadth of the window, the mixture of fog and smoke was drawn into the room, filling it with a slight smell of burning” (65). Clearly, escape or indeed relief is becoming more and more difficult and K. is beginning to smother. Later, at Titorelli’s, when the heat gets to him he asks "could we not open the window?" to which the artist responds, "it's only a fixed pane of glass, it can't be opened" (76). In other words, by this point, there is no escape.
Titorelli, like most of those associated with the Court, lives in the attic, a place generally kept dark and hidden. Consider how the setting takes on a surreal dimension: “the steps, just like the height of each floor, were much higher than they needed to be.” Here also, “the air was also quite oppressive, there was no proper stairwell and the narrow steps were closed in by walls on both sides” (69). In this dreamscape the walls literally close in on K. He finds himself in tighter and tighter spots and the retinue of “depraved” girls closing in on him and the appearance of Titorelli, the barefoot artist who appears in his nightshirt, add to the crazy, carnivalesque setting for which Kafka is famed.