What is the theme to Franz Kafka's, "Before the Law"? Quotes to support the theme? 

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What an intriguing allegory!  A man from the country comes to find the law.  He is stopped by a doorkeeper.  The man wants to know if he will be allowed in later; the doorkeeper says possibly.  The doorkeeper describes the other more terrible doorkeepers that he would have to go through in order to achieve his goal.

The man sits there for years and never gets in.  He is often indifferently asked questions by the doorkeeper. Bribery by the man toward the doorkeeper sacrifices everything that the man owns. 

…sacrifices all he has to bribe the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts everything, but always with the remark: ‘I am only taking it to keep you from thinking you have omitted anything.’ The man curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly. 

When he is dying, the doorkeeper tells him that no one else could go through this particular door because it was made for him.

Questions arise as the reader tries to understand what the parable means.  What does the law represent? In some third world countries and even in Europe, there are governments who do not allow the common man to be a part of the law unless he breaks the rules or laws. The legal system is not available to the normal citizen. 

The doorkeepers represent the various levels of government.  From the local authority to the highest level, the doorkeepers become less personal and more rigid in observation of the rules or laws established by the authorities. 


The theme of the parable is that man cannot wait for the law to come to him. He cannot sit down and hope that one day he will be able to be a part of the law.  Every man has a right to justice.  The common man must be willing to fight or stand up for his civil rights and do what is necessary to have the legal system work for him.

The man sits for years waiting to be able to be a part of the law. There are men who are unwilling to challenge the system for fear of the ramifications both to himself and his family.  Without the will to enter the gate under his own volition, the man wastes his life waiting for something to happen.

When a government is not democratic, it usually takes care of those who are influential or strong in their power. The little man has no representation unless he unites with others or his peers.  This is the cause of civil wars. 

However, justice or the legal system should be available to everyone regardless of their financial or class status.  A parallel with this story is the Berlin Wall placed by a government that was not thinking of what was best for the citizens.  The people snuck from West to East Berlin and back again.  Only individuals tried to challenge the authorities.  It took many years of isolation before the government allowed the wall to be torn down. 

Men, like this man from the country, are completely incapable of facing up to the system. They just wait for justice to come to them; they wait for permission to seek it, instead of just getting up and taking action and freeing  themselves.

niurkareynoso | Student

I totally agreed with carol-davis.

It also suggest how easy we enter ( without knowing ) in the game of others ! it suggest that because the Gatekeeper tells you I'm powerful and keeps going, telling you that the others Gatekeepers are even more powerful, you should follow, but that my friend, it's not always the case. That's whats going on in our modern times now, ( from bulling in schools to terrorizing governments ) they always warn you, To Not Try certain things your self because you'll be defeated; and we just listen and follow orders fearful of what it might happen to us. Then we just wait and wait until the law works in our favor, a favor that will never be materialized, not even at the time of our Death.