The brain is a wonderful thing, in that it can complete images and words without needing to see every detail. Those forwarded emails with the jumbled up words that people can read fluently is just one of the many proofs of the brain’s ability. Just because we have this ability to infer, however, does not mean that our inferences are always correct. Eyes can easily jump over spelling mistakes, sometimes several times, never realizing anything was wrong. In novels, however, it is harder to make the mind skip over so many instances. In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, there are many points in the novel that are never mentioned again, leading the reader to believe it might just be a blip in the mind. Many fragmental chapters that were a work in progress for Kafka, who never even wanted this novel published, are left out. These fragments contain quite a bit of information on the plotlines which are often mentioned but never further discussed, such as K.’s relationships with Elsa the waitress, Fräulein Bürstner, and Leni.
The fragment chapters further develop K. as a person and also as a social being. He goes to visit his blind old mother, possibly in fear that once he was incarcerated he would never get to see her again. This fragmented chapter also shows K.’s dislike of pious behavior, which his mother exhibits. Another fragment shows K. getting a call to court one day at work, which he ignores to go see his girlfriend, Elsa, instead. K. asks if he will be punished for not showing up, he is told no, and he hangs up. From this tiny segment we learn that the trial is even further from our perceptions of trials today. Failing to appear in court leads to an arrest warrant in today’s legal system.
Despite these snippets learned from the fragments, which aren’t always included in the end of the novel, many would argue that the text available is the text from which readers interpret. Opposers say that Kafka’s original intent does not matter, since his original intent was to have nothing published posthumously at all. Therefore, the text that is published should be thought of as a complete work with a few plot holes as opposed to a larger piece of fiction.
In response to that opposition, though, I offer up this thought: One year. In the grand scheme of life, it is very insignificant. Many will live to see 60 or more years. Even compared to thirty years of life, one year is small. During that one year, however, from one birthday to the next, so much can and does happen. It’s odd, then, that Josef K.’s one year period between his thirtieth birthday and his thirty-first can all be explained in less than 150 pages. Each of the 10 chapters in The Trial center around roughly one day in Josef K.’s life, ten out of the 365 we know him.
If the prevalent question of what’s missing isn’t in conjuncture to the fragments, then surely it fits with the roughly 350 days in that terrible year of which the readers have no account. How did he act on those days? Was K. paranoid every day or just the few the readers witnessed?
Kafka’s work is, perhaps intentionally, incomplete in that most of the details of K.’s self-trial are kept unwritten. Readers cannot judge the book on the skeleton that is available, because still much must be inferred.