“Before the Law” Writing Explication no 1 The Law is nothing else than conventions, codes and laws that govern a society. When a human being is born, his destiny is to unfurl in this community. One of two things can then happen : he is accepted into the society as it is, enters within the norms of the Law without asking any questions and becomes a part of the social machinery, or he revolts himself against the Law, considering it as an obstacle to the freedom of the individual.
Kafka, in this extract of The Trial named “Before the Law”, focuses on the relationship that the Law has with an individual, embodied here by the man from the country. He serves as a counter-example representing what not to do. Usually, we do not wait in front of the Law, we get in and do not question the doorkeeper. We pass the threshold to attempt to assert ourselves in the Law. The Law does not expect anything from the man from the country’ : with him or without him the society would still function the same.
The doorkeeper is not particularly impressive : fur coat, Tartar beard, big harp nose, his face seems grotesque and ridiculous. Such a description does not portray a particularly intimidating character for the man of the country to approach. So why doesn’t he enter the Law ? He is afraid. The rural lifestyle has always been the real world that preceded him, he dreads to be caught in a social network that is new to him. Fearing to not be able to claim his freedom and to be squashed by the steamroller of the totality of the existing world.
Moreover, another source of angst is the thought of not being able to fully become what he is meant to be during the short time of his existence. The Janitors 2 problem seems abstract, it is on the contrary, very concrete : it is at that precise moment of the recoil that seizes us when we need to attend an administration where we need to justify our identity, expose our problems or the nature of our inquiry. The similarity between the first sentence of the parable and last one provides us an explanation for his doubts as well.
The first line of the text places a man in front of the Law and the last ejects him from it making us believe that this admission-expulsion cycle happens whenever the Law solicited. This would make it unattainable for the man of he country, his goal seems unrealistic The use of third person narration in this extract is quite limited. We feel like we are in the shoes of the man of the country rather than those of the doorkeeper. This might be because the author, Kafka, thinks of himself as the man of the country since he withdraws to understand the world and is already at that instant outside of the law.
But the same applies to each human being who does not want to get lost in the mass of humanity and wants to have a guarantee to flourish independently. He wants two things that are contradictory : freedom and being a full member of the society. The action of the epilogue does not progress ; the man of the country lives and dies. He is subjected to the passage of time and nothing else happens apart from the duration of his existence. He does not act. In legends and diverse apologies the hero usually goes through tests to assert himself.
Novels and epic tales of tradition describe successive events where the man leaves that comes back having lived, learnt and enriched himself from experiences that precisely make him a hero. With the man of the country we deal with the perfect anti hero. He sits, he waits. He does not dare do anything, he is afraid, We cannot insist more on this astonishing trait, a stupefying passiveness of a man that destroys his freedom to undertake anything and ends the deployment of his destiny. Describing what happens, or rather what doesn’t happen, gives a tragic sense to this experience.
Janitors 3 Nonetheless, the lack of evolution in the plot , makes us feel that Kafka did not mean for this to be interpreted in this manner and sees this with humor, he laughs at traditional tales and the wisdom that invite readers to live their life. The approaching senility when the man of the country implores the fleas f the doorkeeper’s fur collar is supposed to make us smile. From the beginning of the text, the author invites us not to take this lesson of wisdom, this epilogue, at face value : a man of the country asking to enter the Law.
The elector is advised to see from the start that this inquiry is ridiculous. He has been engaged in life from the moment he was born, what does he need to ask ? This is not a question that needs to be formulated. Yet paradoxically, it is a question that is to be inquired because of consciousness, this human specificity that brings us to question ourselves. “In what am I embarking we wonder when taking a decision. The attitude of the doorkeeper provokes our hesitation, generates our indecision, warns us in a neutral but benevolent way of the dangers that await us.
Every decision is haunted by scruples that the author makes fun of while not excluding himself from this movement. The doorkeeper is the superego, the imagination that depicts in advance the dangers that we are going to have to face. This is not irony or mockery. The humor is a form of compassion that touches all beings. If they ponder too much, they are lost, condemned to wait. If they do not think, they become the equivalence of animals devoid of consciousness.