Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bridge

Bridge. Wooden bridge connecting the main approach to the village on which the protagonist, K., pauses in the opening moments of the novel. The bridge is a transitional point between K.’s previous life, about which only a few details are provided, and his new life in the village. For a long time he stands on the bridge, “gazing upward into the seeming emptiness.” Although K. is ostensibly a traveler with no immediately identifiable goal, his gaze upward into apparent emptiness foreshadows the presence of the castle.

Bridge Inn

Bridge Inn. Named after the bridge near which it stands, this inn is K.’s first point of contact with the villagers and the castle. His unannounced arrival creates suspicion among the peasants and elicits a rebuke by a castle official, who explains that he cannot stay on castle property without permission. The inn, normally a welcome place for travelers, instead becomes the initial source of K.’s alienation in the village.

Village

Village. Unnamed place in an unspecified country in which the narrative is centered. Franz Kafka never elucidates K.’s reasons for going to the village. Although K. claims to have been summoned there by the castle’s Count Westwest to do surveying work, he does not know, or pretends not to know, of the castle when an official interrogates him on his arrival. From the moment his position within the village is challenged, K. begins to defend his presence; he claims an affiliation with the castle in his capacity as a commissioned land surveyor and tries to legitimize his position by becoming engaged to Frieda, a barmaid at the Gentleman’s Inn who is the former mistress of Klamm, a high castle official.

The village also represents a community from which K. is excluded on the most fundamental levels. K. attempts to create a place for himself within that community, which leads him to his interminable and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to reach the castle.

Westwest’s Castle

Westwest’s Castle. The castle represents a legitimizing authority, whose approval is necessary for K.’s future as a citizen of the village. Throughout the novel, the castle is both the focus of his ambition and an enemy that must be conquered. His efforts to gain access to the castle and its officials resemble, in comic and tragic ways, the efforts of a knight to breach a fortress. That his goal is misplaced seems evident...

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