A The Arrest
At the start of The Trial, Joseph K. awakes on the morning of his thirtieth birthday. He is greeted by two warders, Franz and Willem, who tell him he’s under arrest, and introduce him to the Inspector. He refuses to tell K. why he has been arrested. Confused, K. is surprised when they let him go with orders to come back for his trial. After work that evening, K. talks with his landlady, Frau Grubach, who is sympathetic to his plight. K. likes Fraulein Burstner, whose room the Inspector had commandeered. When she returns late at night, K. insists on talking to her about his day, and then makes a grab for her.
B First Interrogation
K. is told to present himself for a brief inquiry into his case. He goes to the address, only to find that it’s a tenement house. A woman doing laundry directs him to the Court of Inquiry. The Court is sitting in a stuffy room, packed with bearded men in black. K. addresses the audience about the stupidity of the court. He is cut off by a man grabbing the laundry woman and shrieking.
C The Offices
K. returns to the offices the following Sunday, but no one is there except the laundry woman. She is the wife of the Usher, and explains that the man who had grabbed her was a law student, Bertold, who has been chasing her. K. examines the books left on the table, only to find that they are pornography. The Usher’s wife tells him about the Examining Magistrate, but Bertold enters and carries her off. The Usher returns and complains about Bertold, and he leads K. into the labyrinthine law offices in the attic to look for him. They pass through a hallway filled with accused men. K. feels faint and has to sit down. He makes his way out, carried along by a man and young woman, badly shaken.
D Fraulein Burstner’s Friend
K. wants to talk to Burstner again, but cannot find her. A commotion in the hall reveals that Fraulein Montag, a sickly teacher, is moving in with her. Joseph is upset, and goes to Fraulein Montag. She won’t tell him why she’s moving in, and says that Burstner doesn’t want to talk to him.
E The Whipper
K. is walking to his office in the Bank when he hears a horrible scream. He finds the warders, Franz and Willem, being whipped in a storeroom. They plead with him to help them, but the whipper is adamant about doing his duty. K. tries to buy him off, and fails. The next week, still troubled, he goes back to look at the room, only to find the whipper and the two warders there again.
F K.’s Uncle
K.’s Uncle Karl, upset over the case, comes in from the country. They go to see one of his uncle’s friends, Dr. Huld, who is very sick but knows all about K.’s predicament. K. is distracted by the Lawyer’s nurse, Leni, and sneaks off to visit her in the middle of the conversation. Leni shows him her webbed fingers, and tries to seduce him, giving him a key so he can return at any time. He returns, and his uncle berates him for fooling around when he should be resolving his case.
G The Painter
K. obsesses over the case, which has dragged on for six months. One of his work clients, a manufacturer, knows about his situation and tells him that a painter, Titorelli, might be able to help. K. goes to see Titorelli. The painter explains that things are never as they seem and elaborates on the nature of the plea system. K., disheartened, leaves after buying three identical pictures from the painter, only to find that this building too has law offices in its attic.
When K. decides to dismiss Dr. Huld, he finds a half-naked man, Block, with Leni. Block describes his own case, which has been going on for five years. Block tells him that it is widely believed that K. will lose his case. K. consults Huld, who tells him that Leni sleeps with all of the accused men. Dr. Huld, to illustrate the nature of the law to K., makes Block abase himself.
I The Cathedral
K. is asked to escort a client around the cathedral. While there he meets a priest who tells him he is the prison chaplain, and that his case is going badly. The priest relates a parable called Before the Law. A man from the country comes to the door seeking admittance to the Law, but the guard says he can’t enter. The man sits and waits by the door for years, trying to find a way to make the guard let him in. Finally, when he is about to die, he asks why nobody else ever came to the door. The guard says that the door was only ever meant for him, and now it will be closed. K. and the priest discuss the parable. Is the doorkeeper subservient to the man or vice versa? Did the man come of his own free will? Is he deluded? The priest says that it is not necessary to accept everything as true, only to accept it as necessary. K. counters that the world must then be based on lies.
J The End
On the evening before his thirty-first birthday, two men come to Joseph’s apartment and take him away. At an abandoned quarry they take off his coat and shirt and lay him down. Taking out a butcher knife, they pass it to each other over him. He is supposed to take it and plunge it into his own chest, but he doesn’t, instead looking over at a house across the way. Someone is standing at the window on the top floor. Joseph wonders who it is, and where the Judge is, and the High Court. He holds out his hands and spreads his fingers. One of the men takes the knife and stabs him, twisting the knife twice. K.’s last words are, “Like a dog!”