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,...

(The entire section is 702 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The earliest known inhabitants of the mountainrimmed nucleus of the Czech Republic were the “Boii” people....

(The entire section is 771 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Parables are familiar teaching devices that reveal moral lessons through short and simple stories. A...

(The entire section is 874 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of the techniques most discussed in Kafka's fiction is his tendency to use parables, little stories which in their interpretation reveal...

(The entire section is 194 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The elliptical nature of Kafka's narrative invites interpretation and no novel more so than The Trial. With its labyrinthine...

(The entire section is 380 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Compare the several editions of The Trial (Brod’s—if possible, Muir’s and Breon Mitchell’s—based on Pasley’s German...

(The entire section is 182 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Trial like Kafka's other novels defines a genre of its own. Although other authors have written about the labyrinth of the western...

(The entire section is 175 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like all of the long prose works, The Trial, was not published during Kafka's lifetime, and therefore he was unable to provide his...

(The entire section is 70 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Trial was filmed in 1963 by Orson Welles, produced by a French-Italian-German conglomerate, and reflects Welles' eccentric but...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

“Say what you like, but The Trial is the best film I ever made!” So says Orson Welles, director of a 1963 adaptation of the novel...

(The entire section is 96 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Kafka’s 1915 story, The Metamorphosis, begins: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself...

(The entire section is 293 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka: on the Tenth Anniversary of His Death,” in his Illuminations: Essays...

(The entire section is 379 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Flores, Angel, ed. The Kafka Problem. New York: New Directions, 1946. An important and relatively early collection of essays, three of which deal specifically with The Trial.

Flores, Angel, and Homer Swander, eds. Franz Kafka Today. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1958. Two essays treat the structure and meaning of The Trial, respectively; useful as a companion volume to the previous Flores collection. Includes a long bibliography.

Gray, Ronald, ed. Kafka: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Fifteen excellent essays on general...

(The entire section is 243 words.)