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Before the Law

In: English and Literature

Submitted By sidhant16
Words 1468
Pages 6
Sidhant Raghuvanshi

BA LLB 2014
English mid-term assignment
Date: 02-08-2014

Before The Law

‘Before the law’, written by ‘Franz Kafka’ depicts the life of a common man and his pursuits to gain justice under a lawless legal system.
Kafka is considered to be one of the most influential ‘German Speaking’ Jewish writers of the twentieth century. Kafka was a subject to the cruelty of the legal system, himself as he was arrested and tried in court without being told the grounds of his arrest. Kafka uses the story, ’Before the Law’ to express his angst against the legal system.

When a person tries to approach the law he is not stopped at one level but is stopped at many levels if he don’t have the power compared to the law. Here we talk about a man who came from a country. Is he an ordinary man? This question answers his entry into the law. He is a poor fellow who is stopped by the gatekeeper who owns nothing in the law but why is he stopped?
Law is meant for everybody no matter rich or poor anyone can approach to get justice but law has become so corrupted with a gate open in front of a person he is not allowed to enter. A man in search of justice is stopped saying "I am powerful" stating as if he is going to give justice to the man. The man from the country didn’t expected just obstacle as he came with a view that law is accessible for everyone but having a close look at the gatekeeper scares him from entering and decides to wait rather than asking him why he cannot get access. Gatekeeper interrogates the man by asking him several questions about his homeland and many other things as if his going to listen to the man and decide things for him. The man being innocent gives away all the valuable things he was carrying with him with a hope that after taking this the gatekeeper will allow him to enter but this seems to be a wrong decision as gatekeeper takes without any regards and says that this is just to give you hope that you have not yet failed.
The primary theme of the story is Law and its inaccebility .It revolves around the life of a poor country man in the pursuit of justice. The poor man reaches a doorway and asks for the admittance to law. The doorkeeper tells him that the door shall not be opened for him and on questioning, does not give a definite time of when it will be opened. The doorkeeper tells the poor country man that there are many doors blocking his way towards the law and that this door is the easiest to cross. He says that the subsequent doorkeepers are even more terrifying and that the doorkeeper himself is frightened to confront them. The poor country man tries his level best and spends years in front of the door to gain access through the door to no avail. He finally dies old and without any answers after wasting his entire life trying to find them and get justice.

Kafka describes the doorkeeper as a rich aristocrat wearing an expensive fur coat with a long sharp nose and sporting a long, thin, black tartar beard representing authority and superiority.
According to kafta the doors preventing the access to law are protected only by the rich and not the poor. These rich bureaucrats exploit the poor and take them and their lives for granted. The poor country man at his deathbed describes the rich doorkeeper as insatiable. According to kafta bureaucrats such as the doorkeeper can never be satisfied as they already have all that they require and hence anything that the poor do to satisfy them prove completely futile.

Kafta also depicts a hierarchy that exists in the legal system. The one that is on a higher level has a greater say and more strength. The first doorkeeper tells the poor country man that even though he is powerful, he is the least powerful amongst the three. He says that he himself is frightened to confront the third doorkeeper. The first doorkeeper is depicted as an extremely powerful tyrannical person who does not give the doorkeeper the basic right to court redressal. If the first doorkeeper is so evil, little can one imagine the extent of evil that the third doorkeeper depicts .
Through ‘Before the Law’, ‘Franz Kafka’, brings forth the concept of equality before the law. According to Kafka, all hums should be treated as equal in front of the law and should not be denied justice on the basis of caste, creed, occupation, financial position and sex. Kafka worked for the freedom of men and their ability to change the world. He believed that all men should be provided with the opportunity to change the world which is not provided to, to the poor country man in the story. He was not given the opportunity to approach the court to get justice and was treated as an inferior on the basis of his wealth.

Let us assume that anyone of us from a literate background goes to the law then this scenario would be exactly the reverse as we wont even look at the gatekeeper instead of getting scared as the man does and the gatekeeper will be the one to give us the information for the person we want to contact rather than waiting or be outside the law we will be doing our work and leaving. The gatekeeper stands as a obstacle in front of the man and law because he have this mindset that this man is powerless and he can easily guide him according to his wish. This mindset of gatekeeper is not for that only man but for all the poor and illiterate people who don’t get power to confront the people like gatekeeper.

When the law makes a person waits it can days or years but getting justice sometimes cannot be just difficult but impossible which takes place with this old man in the story who is in his last years of life and for him still the gatekeeper stands as a barrier for the entry of man into the law. In our law the system of bribe or being corrupt is very old. Every person on any level is corrupted and some of those who are not are hard to find. This corrupted system makes delay in every case for some money or just being lazy. The corrupted system builds many obstacles such as for Kafka and also takes all the resources owned by the person as the money given by Kafka to the gatekeeper to get some hope of getting into the law.
This is a very good answer by the gatekeeper to man so that the gatekeeper doesn’t feel guilty and the man is proven to be wrong as the gatekeeper states the man didn’t try instead the fact is that man tried a lot to get entry till his last breath but the gatekeeper didn’t let him in. Not only the man is responsible for getting an entry more responsible is the system which needs to be repaired because if this thing doesn’t get a recovery this will get more worse in the future and people rather then getting scared of gatekeeper will be get scared of the word law.
The last couple of lines of ‘Before the law’ are of immense importance to the story. The doorkeeper tells the poor country man that the reason no one else comes to the door is because the door has been built specifically for the poor man. This can be interpreted in a number of ways. According to me, the poor man is not a person in the literal sense but a representation of any other naïve, ignorant, poor man who is not aware of the way in which the law functions. Kafta hence tries to say that the doors exist only to block the path of the poor and not the rich. These lines hence bring out the main essence of the story and the importance of equality before the law which has been clearly disregarded in the case of the poor old man.
The story ‘before the law’ by ‘Franz Kafka’, hence represents the fallacies that exist in the beaurocratic systems in the world at present. It highlights important issues of equality before law and the exploitation of the poor on the hands of the rich aristocrats. The story hence makes the reader question the beaurocratic system in place and brings to the attention of the reader the immediate requirement of the change in the bureaucratic systems around the world.

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