Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


City. Kafka’s urban setting for The Trial reinforces the ordinary quality of protagonist Joseph K.’s life. K. lives and works as anyone else might in a large, industrialized city. The urban setting also emphasizes the arbitrary nature of his trial, as K. appears to be an ordinary citizen picked at random to face charges for an unspecified crime.

Frau Grubach’s boardinghouse

Frau Grubach’s boardinghouse. Residence of K., in which Kafka sets much of the novel, thereby creating a sense of personal invasion. One morning, while he is still in bed, K. discovers that he is under arrest. Two guards of the court have been sent to deliver the message; however, they give no information about the crime for which he is charged. His arrest is sudden and inexplicable, and because it occurs in his bedroom, the proceedings against him exhibit a confusing and invasive quality. They do not correspond to any rational system of justice. The law condemns Joseph K. in his bedroom in the opening chapter, and it returns for him there at the novel’s conclusion to execute its sentence.


Court. Building to which K. goes, using the address given to him for his initial hearing. There he finds a dilapidated apartment complex, in whose cramped and overheated attic the court that has accused him meets. This unlikely setting for a court of law emphasizes the nightmarish nature of K.’s trial, while also creating questions about the legitimacy of the proceedings. The locations of other court offices in the upper rooms of buildings also suggest the transcendence of the court and its procedures. K. has difficulty breathing the air in the court,...

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