Franz Kafka's The Trial: Guilty or innocent?

Everett Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Through an examination of The Trial by Kafka I attempt to show that the depiction of the Court apparatus is dynamically related to the commission of unconscious crimes of the type we encounter in our patients. To provide a context for the novel, I discuss Kafka's biography and some possible unconscious motivations. My goal is to show how the concept of a particular type of superego pressure can be used to understand the subtle irony in The Trial. Although Joseph K.'s behavior frequently involves oedipal crimes, there are many preoedipal themes that help account for his experience of the Court. I contrast this psychoanalytic understanding of K.'s guilt with that of literary critics who interpret The Trial as an allegory of guilt but who minimize the psychological dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-590
Number of pages30
JournalPsychoanalytic Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 27 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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