(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The variety of interpretations of The Castle, both of its central symbol and of its ultimate meaning, are bewildering in their variety and multiplicity. One central interpretation has the village representing the norms of society— healthy, life-giving and secure, containing the blessings of human and bourgeois society — and the novel a chronicling of Joseph K.'s attempt to integrate himself into that world. Another critical stance sees the book containing a chronicle of Jewish loneliness and K.'s failure to attain admission into the community being prompted by a subtle anti-Semitism in which he is neither ejected nor welcomed, neither thrown out nor accepted. Yet another reading defines the conflict between the castle, which stands for God, and the hero, who cannot attain God, with the villagers in between. It is a problem of divine grace. One variation of this theme is to see the castle as being empty, void of a resident head, God is dead in other words, which makes the universe devoid of sense.

One must finally face the fact that The Castle is open to widespread interpretation, as are Kafka's other works. It was designed that way, left deliberately exposed to multiple readings both to stave off simple-minded, closed interpretations and to more closely approximate the realities of the modern world with its lack of stability and fixed philosophical, religious, and aesthetic ideas.

(The entire section is 227 words.)