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What is the most significant achievement of Kafka's story "The Trial?"Why is this an...

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kafkakidmd | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 9, 2011 at 12:12 PM via web

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What is the most significant achievement of Kafka's story "The Trial?"

Why is this an important example of modern literature, and how did Kafka's writing revolutionize subsequent works of fictional literature in the modern literary movement?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 9, 2011 at 11:56 PM (Answer #1)

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I would say that Kafka's work is so significant because it brings to light what will mark "the end of progress" in Europe.  Into the vaulted European literary and political tradition, one that stresses justice, fairness, and other Enlightenment values that praise the efforts of the individual, Kafka's work puts all of that on its head.  Instead of the transparent government and legal setting where the rights of the individual are enshrined, Kafka renders a setting where trials are arbitrary and power becomes the only constant.  Kafka's work depicts a condition whereby progress and advancement have been replaced by a setting where individual consolidation and government tightening of control is evident. Death squads and governmental controls were not results of "science fiction" or something that is imaginary.  Rather, they proved to be real, something that Kafka understood acutely. Josef K. knows not for what he is on trial, and knows little else about the law.  He is a modern character, industrious and efficient, but the guilty of a process that has started against him, without him, yet concerning him.  The traditional and Enlightenment vision of the human being is one who will, if acting in concert with social norms and expectations, find success and redemption.  Josef does this, and yet does not receive this.  In such a characterization, Kafka demonstrates that one of the most haunting premises of the modern setting is that justice can be fleeting, redemption can be illusory, and that one of the curses of modernity is the idea of not knowing "the gate to enter" with a multiplicity of gates in front of us.  It is in this where Kafka's work speaks loudest.

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