"Before The Law": Themes Of Law And Justice

2357 words - 10 pages

Themes of law and justice are represented in numerous variations in Franz Kafka's The Trial . Most noteworthy are the themes and relations presented in Chapter 9 of the novel. Here, the reader experiences the parable "Vor dem Gesetzt" or "Before the Law." This parable represents a social construction present almost everywhere. Human beings seek out acceptance into various societal constructions and the law is no different. Humans, and specifically Joseph K, attempt to reach a state of understanding in different aspects of life and The Trial expresses the desire to understand and be accepted into the law. The parable acts a justifier for the themes of the book. Although after reading the novel, one could deduce that acceptance and understanding was a theme, the parable works to draw the reader towards this idea. There is a one-to-one relationship materialized when the parable and the story of Joseph K are separated into distinct sections. Each element of the parable "Before the Law" represents an element of Kafka's The Trial through which the story of Joseph K is told. By comparing the separate and distinct sections and explaining their relationships to aspects of the story, law and justice, even as skewed as it is portrayed in the novel, can be understood.
Before the themes of law and justice can be understood, the terms must be conceptualized in order to have a codified definition during the reading process. Law in this sense, not only represents or means the overarching authority through which society is governed, the codified set of rules and guidelines which govern society, but also must be understood as a form or distinct entity that can be understood and achieved. Without this understanding, the messages of the parable seem distant. Justice in relation, is more difficult to define explicitly. Plato defines justice as the equal treatment of those that are equal and the unequal treatment of those that are unequal. Modern definitions tend to define justice as the moral sense of what is right through a rational, conscientious decision-making process. In any case, these terms create an argument that is over-arching in relation to the novel. Law and justice, especially for Joseph K, has to be sought out, it is not easily attainable. Justice is only achievable through a committed search for the law. It does not come without effort nor does the search ever really end.
The parable "Before the Law" begins when a "man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through an open doorway, but the doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through the door at the present time." (Kafka, 156) For the purpose of this argument, the man from the country represents Joseph K, and the doorkeeper can be represented by the mystical body that eventually becomes known as the court (possibly a system of law). Joseph K is the man from the country side because just as the man does not understand and is not accepted into the law, Joseph K does...

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