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Written by Timothy Sexton
"Like a dog."
This simile is the climactic exclamation point on the end of an extended metaphor situating a human trapped in the court system as a dog. An earlier reference compares a humiliating performance by a lawyer as an act of self-praise was “dog-like.” Another reference to the metaphor observes the transformation of the lawyer-client relationship as one that devolves into the client becoming the lawyer’s pet.
More than mere symbol, the apple that Josef K takes from his dressing and enjoys while lying on his bed is stuffed with metaphorical meaning. The apple resonates a familiar symbol from the Bible as the fruit taken from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by Eve to tempt Adam. Thus, the apple is symbolic of the loss of innocence and so when Josef eats it early on in the novel, it becomes a metaphor of sorts for every bizarre occurrence which subsequently happens. With the loss of innocence comes not just knowledge, but guilt and the loss of paradise represented by the confluence of those two concepts.
“It's actually the figure of justice and the goddess of victory all in one.”
Josef K. is having a conversation with an artist who has been commissioned to paint a portrait of the familiar symbol of Justice as a blind woman holding scales. But when he notices that the figure of Justice is also painted as having wings on her heels, he remarks that this indicates motion and points out that movement would cause her scales to go off-balance, thus rendering an unfair verdict. The metaphorical meaning is quite clear in a novel in which justice is rendered in terms of victory for the state which must shift the balance of the scales according to ensure they never lose.
“He could have taken it all as a joke”
One of the overriding metaphors of the criminal proceedings against Josef K. is that must be some sort of a joke because the entire premise is absurd. The comparison of something that seems logically absurd to a joke is a fundamental aspect of the literary movement of absurdism. The first reaction of many people to being arrested without being informed of their alleged crime might be to consider that a joke is being played upon them precisely because the system of law has always—even under the most arbitrarily abusive of regimes—been predicated upon the idea being punished for having done something viewed as wrong. The entire point of the novel of the collapses if Josef is informed that he has committed a crime he knows he did not because that at least connects him to reality and absurdism is intended to be a reflection of reality taken as far to the breaking point as possible. An element of seeming to be a joke must be present for the metaphor to work and the accusation of committing a crime one knows he did not commit resonates far more seriously than this alternative.
“Did this not seem like a kind of torture, acknowledged by the court, connected with the trial and which followed him around?”
This simile is reflects upon perhaps the single most recognizable metaphor for the judicial system in the entire book. Just about anyone who has ever faced any kind of legal accusation in which one’s very fate hangs in the balance can identify with the underlying symbolic implication that even if one is found innocent or absolved of all charges, the very process itself becomes akin to serving a sentence. The wheels of just grind notoriously slow and it can truly be a torture for the accused; a torture often acknowledged by a court with full and willing complicity.
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