The Trial

The Trial Literary Elements


Absurdism; psychological fiction; surrealism

Setting and Context

The novel is set in an unspecified capital city, likely based on Prague, in the early twentieth century

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told by an unnamed third-person limited omniscient narrator; the point of view stays with the protagonist, Josef K.

Tone and Mood

The tone is anxious and absurd; the mood is exhausting, humorous, depressive, and futile.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Josef K. is the protagonist; the principal antagonists are the many people who carry out the whims of a remote and inaccessible court system that prosecutes Josef K.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of the novel is that Josef K. is being prosecuted by an unassailable legal authority for a crime that is never explained to him, giving him no chance to defend himself or even know what his punishment will be.


The novel reaches its climax in the final chapter, when two men working for the court bring K. to an out-of-the-way quarry, strip off his clothing, and twist a butcher's knife into his heart.







Metonymy and Synecdoche