Themes and Meanings

The theme of The Trial Begins is easily stated. The ideal of Communism has been hopelessly corrupted by Stalinism, the means used to implement that goal. This theme is woven throughout the text. Globov justifies the czarist subjugation of free mountain tribes in the Caucasus (as opposed to the British subjugation of nearby India) on the grounds that the land is necessary for the Soviet state. At a soccer game, Globov defends an unethical act by his favorite player since it was necessary for victory. Even Karlinsky finds that his goal of seducing Marina has been subverted by his means; he proves impotent. The major statement is, however, reserved for Rabinovich.

The central vehicle for expression of the theme is the trial of the novella’s title, which is more accurately translated as “the court is in session.” Humankind is on trial; to be accused is to be guilty. The purpose of the trial is not to establish guilt or innocence but to serve the Goal, supposedly Communism but in fact the convenience of the Master and his prosecutors, whose personal interests soon supplant the Goal. All issues are decided not on the basis of any reality, but on an a priori view of what best serves the Cause, leading to the perversion of the Revolution and an entire society. No reader will fail to note that in the end, Globov, Karlinsky, and Marina all thrive, while the idealist Seryozha, the narrator, and Rabinovich all rot in a camp.

The novella is...

(The entire section is 429 words.)