Guilt has relative existence; in one sense or another, every man experiences guilt. Whether or not this guilt is worthy of punishment, however, is another question. For this, modern society has created trials that decide whether or not a person is guilty. However, sometimes the actual guilt or innocence of an individual is not the most important aspect of his or her trial. In the novel, The Trial, Franz Kafka uses his main character Joseph K to show the unimportance of the actual guilt of an individual. Although K is arrested and summoned by the courts, he is never informed of his crime, or questioned on his actual guilt. The trial that K is put through can be interpreted on two levels, the first of which is a literal interpretation of a criminal trial. The second level can be seen as the internal trial that he must go through to cope with his own anxiety. K and his trial are used to represent the eternal guilt of human beings in the eyes of a bureaucracy, and in this sense, K is guilty. However, the question of K's guilt is not important to Kafka's intention to show his idea that "the innocent and the guilty [are] both executed without distinction in the end."
In Kafka's beliefs, the courts treat all men as if they were guilty. Joseph K is a prime example of this treatment. He is never told about his crime, nor of how the trial is going. He merely waits until he is summoned, and if he is not, he is still forced to live his life according to the courts. This is what Kafka believes happens to all individuals; they are controlled by the society, and forced to agree with what the society implements upon them. K never found out what his alleged crime was, and will never find out. However, he was forced to agree with his own guilt because the society did not give him any other option. When he was told of his three possible outcomes, none included a statement of innocence. K allowed the trial and the pressure to run his daily life, and was never able to return to his normal lifestyle. However, one night, the prison guard summons K to the church to have a conversation.
Kafka uses a story inside of the story to provide an explanation to why K can never get anything accomplished when it comes to his case. While K is in the church, the prison guard tells him a story of a man who tried to enter the courts, and K realizes that what the guard is saying is the exact reason that K will never be able to do anything about his case. The man in the story wanted to enter the courts, but the doorman would not allow him passage. The man waited his entire life hoping to get through the door, but he never did. As the man was dying, he asked the doorkeeper why no one else has tried to enter the door, and the doorkeeper replied that the door is only meant for that man. In K's case, K wants to learn more about his trial, and attempt to make a difference, but he can not even get through the first door of courts to begin. Much like the man in the story, K is never able to get through the door, and he too dies without ever seeing the inside of the courts.
Kafka openly shows his distrust in society by using K's death as an example of what happens to mankind when the bureaucracy becomes stronger than its members. In the beginning of his trial, K was very fearful of all of the possible outcomes, and relied on other people, such as his lawyer and numerous women, to attempt to help him with his case. This inability to rely on himself is exactly what the bureaucracy wanted him to do. However, after a few months of this, K decides that the lawyer and the women can not help him, and he must attempt to fight the battle himself. But the courts do not agree with K's decision, and the trial abruptly comes to a stop when two men come to give K