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MonkeyNotes-The Trial by Franz Kafka
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The parable is about a doorkeeper guarding the gates at the court. There are several halls in the court, one leading to the other with a doorkeeper at each entry point. These doorkeepers are very powerful men. No one can enter the courts without the doorkeeper's permission. So the illusion that is created is that the courts cannot be trusted. The sight of the doorkeeper frightens the common man. He would rather wait for his justice than seek entry and fight for justice. The accused man waits outside on the stool for days and then the days run into years. The man tries to bribe the doorkeeper with all the money he has. The accused man forgets about the other doorkeepers and is constantly aware of only the first one as the hurdle. He even starts begging the fleas on the doorkeeper's fur cap, to let him in, growing more childish as he grows old. He deludes himself more and more. As his vision dims he does not know whether his eyes are becoming weaker or the world is darkening around him. He is now dying and the law seems to afford the only ray of hope. Everybody wants justice. He asks the doorkeeper why is he the only one approaching the law and not the others. The doorkeeper says that the door is meant only for him and not for someone else.

K. concludes that the doorkeeper has cheated the man with his answers. The priest says that K. is too rash. He tells him that he should not prejudge people or depend on opinions expressed by others. This is he says a straightforward story from the scriptures. The doorkeeper is kind enough to give salvation and save his soul, as he could not help him in any way. K. believes that he failed in his duty because he did not let him enter, while the priest believes that he helped him as per the scriptures. The priest opines that K. has changed the story.


The priest says that there are two truths emerging out of this. He cannot admit the man at this pint. The door was meant only for the old man. The first statement implies that anytime in the future he can be let in. The doorkeeper is a stickler for rules doing his duty. He has to refuse permission. The doorkeeper is characterized as doing his duty thoroughly. That is why he holds power. It is necessary to understand his role in this context.

When K. misinterprets the court's proceedings the priest knows he is making a blunder, a fall from the truth and he shouts at K. The doorkeeper neither opens the door early nor shuts the door soon. That makes him conscious of his power. He is the doorkeeper at the lowest grade who cannot be bribed. He keeps up hopes of future entry. The doorkeeper has to be of sterling character. Though he is simple minded, if he is conceited it will lower the dignity of his office. His politeness and patience in bearing with the accused for the major part of his lifetime is remarkable. The priest's analysis presents a different portrait of the doorkeeper. K. feels that the priest had looked too closely into the doorkeeper's case and hence could assess his role from a different perspective.

The priest says that it is not easy to interpret commentaries. The scriptures by themselves cannot be altered. They have a faint or childish idea of what goes on inside. The doorkeeper might have been appointed by an announcement from the inner courts, as he is a part of the legal system. But if he cannot tolerate the third door keeper how did he enter in? All these years he has never commented about the other doorkeepers except for this time? Was he prevented from doing so? Since he does not know what happens inside could he be deluded?

The difference between the man from the country and the doorkeeper is that the countryman is free, while the doorkeeper is bonded to his duty. He treats the countryman with a superior attitude. The man from the country has freedom of movements. He is not allowed to penetrate the law either. He is restricted to that single entrance. The doorkeeper is not aware that he waits for the major part of his life for the man from the country because his service ends with the ending of the accused man's life. The hand of destiny guides his path. His life is bound with the man's life.

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