The Castle

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Late one evening K. stumbles into the snowbound village at the foot of a group of ramshackle buildings known as the castle. Despite a rude welcome in the village inn and a rebuffed telephone call to the castle, K. insists that he has come to work in the village at the castle’s request and that his assistants will arrive the next day.

Although the reader may readily sympathize with K.’s plight at the hands of the elusive castle officials, as the story unfolds one gradually senses K.’s dishonesty about his true identity and motives and his folly in trying to confront the authorities. When the castle sends two good-natured assistants to help K. in his “work,” K. maligns them and their attempts to divert him from his grim insistence on meeting Klamm, the functionary who becomes the focus of K.’s futile efforts.

While K. works himself deeper and deeper into the trap of his own duplicitous tales, not even the love of Frieda, Klamm’s former girlfriend, can save him from his relentless pursuit of stories about the activities of the castle authorities. Shunning Frieda and the playful help of the assistants, K. grows increasingly isolated, yet he refuses to leave the castle village.

The narrator follows K.’s every move with a deftly veiled irony and counters K.’s deadly seriousness with a comic perspective that takes the reader outside the narrow frame of K.’s hopeless wanderings. Written in 1922, shortly after the end of...

(The entire section is 563 words.)