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GRADE Grade 10
Franz Kafka’s absurdist novel The Trial is set in an unnamed European town in the early twentieth century. In the excerpt, K. wakes up in his room to find two warders, or jailers, who tell him he has been arrested. Law-abiding K. has no idea why he is being detained, and the warders, Franz and Willem, will not tell him. His landlady, Frau Grubach, is afraid of the warders. Read the excerpt and answer the questions that follow.     from The Trialby Franz Kafka  
      “You can’t go out, you are arrested.” “So it seems,” said K. “But what for?” he added. “We
  are not authorized to tell you that. Go to your room and wait there. Proceedings have been
  instituted against you, and you will be informed of everything in due course. I am exceeding
  my instructions in speaking freely to you like this. But I hope nobody hears me except Franz,
  5  and he himself has been too free with you, against his express instructions. If you continue to
  have as good luck as you have had in the choice of your warders, then you can be confident of
  the final result.” K. felt he must sit down, but now he saw that there was no seat in the whole
  room except the chair beside the window. “You’ll soon discover that we’re telling you the truth,”
   said Franz, advancing toward him simultaneously with the other man. The latter overtopped K.
10 enormously and kept clapping him on the shoulder. They both examined his nightshirt and said
  that he would have to wear a less fancy shirt now, but that they would take charge of this one
  and the rest of his underwear and, if his case turned out well, restore them to him later. “Much
  better give these things to us than hand them over to the depot,” they said, “for in the depot
  there’s lots of thieving, and besides they sell everything there after a certain length of time, no
15 matter whether your case is settled or not. And you never know how long these cases will last,
  especially these days. Of course you would get the money out of the depot in the long run,
  but in the first place the prices they pay you are always wretched, for they sell your things to
  the best briber, not the best bidder, and anyhow it’s well known that money dwindles a lot if it
  passes from hand to hand from one year to another.” K. paid hardly any attention to this advice.
20 Any right to dispose of his own things which he might possess he did not prize very highly;
  far more important to him was the necessity to understand his situation clearly; but with these
  people beside him he could not even think. The belly of the second warder—for they could only
  be warders—kept butting against him in an almost friendly way, yet if he looked up he caught
  sight of a face which did not in the least suit that fat body, a dry, bony face with a great nose,
25 twisted to one side, which seemed to be consulting over his head with the other warder. Who
  could these men be? What were they talking about? What authority could they represent? K.
  lived in a country with a legal constitution, there was universal peace, all the laws were in force;
  who dared seize him in his own dwelling? He had always been inclined to take things easily,
  to believe in the worst only when the worst happened, to take no care for the morrow even
30 when the outlook was threatening. But that struck him as not being the right policy here, one
  could certainly regard the whole thing as a joke, a rude joke which his colleagues in the Bank
  had concocted for some unknown reason, perhaps because this was his thirtieth birthday, that
  was of course possible, perhaps he had only to laugh knowingly in these men’s faces and they
  would laugh with him, perhaps they were merely porters from the street corner—they looked
35 very like it—nevertheless his very first glance at the man Franz had decided him for the time
  being not to give away any advantage that he might possess over these people. There was a
  slight risk that later on his friends might possibly say he could not take a joke, but he had in
  mind—though it was not usual with him to learn from experience—several occasions, of no
  importance in themselves, when against all his friends’ advice he had behaved with deliberate
40 recklessness and without the slightest regard for possible consequences, and had had in the end
  to pay dearly for it. That must not happen again, at least not this time; if this was a comedy
  he would insist on playing it to the end.
     But he was still free. “Allow me,” he said, passing quickly between the warders to his room.
  “He seems to have some sense,” he heard one of them saying behind him. When he reached his
45 room he at once pulled out the drawer of his desk. Everything lay there in perfect order, but
  in his agitation he could not find at first the identification papers for which he was looking.
  At last he found his bicycle license and was about to start off with it to the warders, but then
  it seemed too trivial a thing, and he searched again until he found his birth certificate. As he
  was re-entering the next room the opposite door opened and Frau Grubach showed herself.
50 He saw her only for an instant, for no sooner did she recognize him than she was obviously
  overcome by embarrassment, apologized for intruding, vanished, and shut the door again with
  the utmost care. “Come in, do,” he would just have had time to say. But he merely stood
  holding his papers in the middle of the room, looking at the door, which did not open again,
  and was only recalled to attention by a shout from the warders, who were sitting at a table by
55 the open window and, as he now saw, devouring his breakfast. “Why didn’t she come in?” he
  asked. “She isn’t allowed to,” said the tall warder, “since you’re under arrest.” “But how can I
  be under arrest? And particularly in such a ridiculous fashion?” “So now you’re beginning it all
  over again?” said the warder, dipping a slice of bread and butter into the honey-pot. “We don’t
  answer such questions.” “You’ll have to answer them,” said K. “Here are my papers, now show
60 me yours, and first of all your warrant for arresting me.” “Oh, good Lord,” said the warder.
  “If you would only realize your position, and if you wouldn’t insist on uselessly annoying us
  two, who probably mean better by you and stand closer to you than any other people in the
  world.” “That’s so, you can believe that,” said Franz, not raising to his lips the coffee-cup he
  held in his hand, but instead giving K. a long, apparently significant, yet incomprehensible look.
65 Without wishing it K. found himself decoyed into an exchange of speaking looks with Franz,
  none the less he tapped his papers and repeated: “Here are my identification papers.” “What
  are your papers to us?” cried the tall warder. “You’re behaving worse than a child. What are
  you after? Do you think you’ll bring this fine case of yours to a speedier end by wrangling
  with us, your warders, over papers and warrants? We are humble subordinates who can scarcely
70 find our way through a legal document and have nothing to do with your case except to stand
  guard over you for ten hours a day and draw our pay for it. That’s all we are, but we’re quite
  capable of grasping the fact that the high authorities we serve, before they would order such
  an arrest as this, must be quite well informed about the reasons for the arrest and the person
  of the prisoner. There can be no mistake about that. Our officials, so far as I know them, and
75 I know only the lowest grades among them, never go hunting for crime in the populace, but,
  as the Law decrees, are drawn toward the guilty and must then send out us warders. That is
  the Law. How could there be a mistake in that?”
The Trial by Franz Kafka, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. Translation copyright © 1937, 1956 and renewed 1964, 1984 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
2013 Spring Release, English Language Arts - Grade 10
Download PDF Document Question 21 - Multiple-Choice

Reporting Category: Reading
Topic: 12 - Fiction
Standard: ELA.K-12.R.1.02 - Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Standard: ELA.K-12.R.1.02 - Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Read the sentence from lines 41 and 42 in the box below.
That must not happen again, at least not this time; if this was a comedy he would insist on playing it to the end.
Based on the excerpt, what is the most likely reason K. believes his situation might be a comedy?

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Last Updated: October 16, 2018
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