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The Comparison between Franz Kafka's Trial and Thomas More’s Utopia’s Effects on Society and Individual

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This study focuses on the literature novels written by Franz Kafka and Thomes more.

Firstly, I will try to focus on corruption and deterioration on society within both books Utopia and Trial. This corruption in society leads to the new words ‘Utopia’ and ‘Dystopia’.Secondly, I will focus the meaning and roles these words in society and individual. Even if in both works content is different, it will show us there will be a connection the words’ Utopia’ and ‘Dystopia’.

Basicly, they complete each other. Without one of these words, we can not say anything related to each other.

In Trial by Franz KAFKA, we have protagonist who is living dystopic, gloomy, corrupted society. One day he get arrested by police and judged by a court with no sense. At the beginning, he has no idea what is his crime. With time progress, he is questioning himself even he is innocent. Because he is living corrupted society and judge system. It pushes him these ideas. This corruption leads him to psychological depression. The book ‘Trial’ states how corruption expands in all over society strongly.

In Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ our protagonist Raphael Hythoday, who is a sailor traveled many countries of earth. So,he knows mercilesness, corruption of societies. He is the voice of Thomas More’s ideal earth order. For Thomas More, there is an island called ‘Utopia’ in which the system is perfect. He believes the perfection of the island. Progressively, he will mention system leads people happy than before. He also focuses freedom and equality in society on his work ‘Utopia’

In a conclusion, I will describe and make a thesis on the words ‘Utopia’ and ‘Dystopia’ in many perspectives. I will concern what these words leads to? and what is the result?

Also, I will try to focus on pscyhological transformation of our progatonists and how they transformed as a new person in different societies.

I will try to explain the content of my thesis with two chapters with two titles.


This study aims to make clarify the corruption of the social system and law in Franz Kafka’s ‘Trial’ with the book ‘Utopia’ by Thomas More. These two books are different from each other. The main theme of ‘Trial’ is how society is awareness of being corrupted and actresses. But in ‘Utopia’ we have a contrary society and lifestyle. This thesis also includes meaning of the word ‘Utopia’ and ‘Dystopia’. In ‘Trial,’ we have dystopic events that happened to our protagonist. In the book ‘Trial’ Kafka uses some unexplained problems.It makes Mr.K, our protagonist, actless, depressed, and stressed. From beginning of the end, Mr.K didn’t know why he was judged in a trial. For him, there is no sense to trial him. He thinks that he is not guilty and innocent like a baby. But,as time progress, he accepts that he is guilty. He disappears in uncertainty and dark. This uncertainty makes him bored to be live and unwilling to do anything. So, I will make a comparison and make a conclusion between two books. When I quote from ‘Trial’ by Franz Kafka, I will also discuss these quotations within the book ‘Utopia’.From these works, we will see the depth of corruption in society in ‘Trial’. On the contrary, in ‘Utopia’ we will see how the perfect society and laws are run. With some examples and quotes, it will be understandable and analyzable. Both two books have great importance on world literature directly. Because many issues like the form of societies criticize in a futuristic way. Both books are concludes different and interesting topics in their times. So, it made them so popular and instructive. 7

Even in our society, we have some difficulties and problems being a perfect society. So this thesis, I hope, might be instructive for us to how to act proper in society as a whole.

This thesis answers some questions like; should we live in acceptance of uncertainty? What is a perfect society? How are law and society being corrupted? Is morality important to human beings?.

So, I choose these two works in my thesis. It will answer many problems in our society that are even happening now.

  1. In chapter 1, our main topic is a society in ‘Trial’
  2. In chapter 2,our main topic is Law and Judgement in ‘Trial
  3. In chapter 3 our main topic is society in ‘Utopia’
  4. In chapter 4 our main topic is law and judgment in ‘Utopia’

The word ‘utopia’

First of all, what is the meaning of the word ‘Utopia’ For the dictionary; an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.

In general, someone dreams good things and orders like a country, we can say that it is our Utopia, dreamland. We feel good and comfortable in this land. In this place, everyone is happy and enjoys to be living in there.In fact, everyone has their own Utopia where they can live in peace. These Utopias are basicly imaginations of our desires. So, the word ‘Utopia’ is includes hopes and our dreams.

The first known Utopia was Plato’s ‘The State. In his work, he discusses the term ‘ideal state. In this work people were categorised like gold, silver,bronze, and iron social classes.

Why does the term ‘Utopia’ appear?

In a life-circle, we are challenging many problems like economic, social and moral. So, these problems leads the word ‘Utopia’With our imagination we are escaping reality and problems sprinkly. Corruption, bribery and low living standarts pushes our imagination to our Utopia’s. So, we can dream of a happy, peaceful place with a good standarts. Imagine it; almost every person in society is equal and peaceful. Who doesn’t want it? When you go home and put your head on pillow, you can imagine good things happening in your world;your imagination. Even if you’re so tired to work, you want to good things in your life which are happening every day. So, this makes UTOPIA.

I don’t know any place without disparity, corruption and bribery arisen. But for Thomas More’s character Raphael

Hytohady, it is possible. Even Raphael did not exist. Its all More’s imagination. He wanted to perfect society and order in his life. Of course it was not possible in England which bribery, slavery, and nonequality existed. Maybe he would believe with his heart that Utopia was exist in somewhere of the world. So, with his book ‘Utopia’ his imagination gave a birth the term utopia.

Also, Plato said something about ‘Utopia’. He mentioned the description of the word ‘Utopia’.

Plato speaks of logoi and doxai that participate in what we could describe as a conflict of values in the realm of soul: some of these are “false and braggart words and opinions” which sometimes “prevail in the conflict” (αὐτοί τε κρατοῦσι µαχόµενοι, 560d1) and manage to present the values associated to reverence and awe as folly or those which accompany temperance as “want of manhood” (560d). But the question is whether this conflict of values is possible in the just city of the Platonic utopia or, what is equivalent to this, in the well-ordered soul of the just individual. The answer is negative, because “when the entire soul accepts the guidance of the wisdom-loving part and is not filled with inner dissension, says Socrates, the result... is that each part enjoys its own proper pleasures” (586e).

The word ‘dystopia’

As we all know from Plato and Thomas More, Utopia is one of a perfect society, place, nation, and state whatever we think.

So what about the anti-term Dystopia?

Dystopia means the contradiction of a utopic lifestyle. It is kind of an anti-thesis of it. So, distopic society be explained like an authoritative and tyrannizer society. For the first time, it was used by John Stuart Miller as a ‘bad place’.Within a tyrannizer society, there were no private life in that ‘bad place’.So, they obey the tyrannizer society. Class, religion, characteristic, and sexuality was controlled by the system.

Why does the word ‘Distopia’ appear?

After wars, revolutions, and disasters dystopias appeared in history. It told us about the downfall of humanity. Life and nature was exploited quickly.

What kind of Distopias do we have?

Ecologic Distopia;In ecologic dystopia, human beings are alienated from nature. They have no relation to nature. It tells the disappearance of nature.

Economic Dystopia; One or most big companies are capturing society. They are manipulating society with their propaganda and advertisements. All sources even human life are controlled by them.

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Politic Distopia; In political dystopia, there is a totalitarian order exists. All values in society are controlled by the government. There is no personal freedom and human rights.

Technological Dystopia; For this dystopia, the main problem of corruption is technology. Artificial intelligence, robots are symbolizing addiction of technology.

Chapter 1 Society in trial

‘Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.’ Franz Kafka ‘Trial’ (pg.1)

Joseph K’s nightmare started with these lines. Without knowing anything that arresting by officers, he had to go police station. At the beginning of the story, he can not believe that he did some crime. When the officer entered the room, he was breaking the special area of Joseph K.Wıthout any permission, he go off half-cocked. When he knew that he was arrested, his servant looked him with bated breath. It shows how people was fear of being arrested. So, we could see the suppression of government on society and every single individual. They had to obey and do not rebel against the power of the government. So Joseph K. Seen as guilty in his neighborhood, Office, and society. He had some dialogue between a woman. So as a guilt Joseph K. Could not accept any woman except for immoral ones.

“you believe that I’m innocent then, do you?” “Well now, innocent … “ said the lady, “I don’t want to start making any pronouncements that might have serious consequences, I don’t really know you, after all, it means they’re dealing with a serious criminal if they send an investigating committee straight out to get him. But you’re not in custody now at least I take it you’ve not escaped from prison considering that you seem quite calm so you can’t have committed any crime of that sort.” Trial (pg.31)

His relationship between Mrs.Burstner was broken with these lines. She did not believe him anymore. She thought he was a crime and dangerous. So, without questioning Joseph K., she judged him by herself. Being arrested was very important for society and for the individual. Because in ‘Trial’ they had no idea about individual rights and privacy. So, they had full of fear being guilty or seem guilty. It was kind of a shame or evil sin for society. If you had no idea about rights, you would be corrupted and misused by the government and some noble person. Every single man of in society were obsessed with being innocent and submissive in this novel. For Joseph K. There was nothing to be afraid of. At first, he was sure about his innocence. But after some events that he lived, he began to question himself. So, this was leaded to him alienation from society and everything.

Throughout the book, almost everyone wanted to find and speak about Joseph K.’s guilt. Why they were very interested in? Because they were kind of robotic features in society. Their existence were not definite at all. Their only aim was gossiping after Joseph K. Any of them did not ask about Joseph K.’s guilt. They just predicted what he done. So, Joseph K.’s alienation fed them. They were lonely in their areas. Without any communication, they judged Joseph K. İn their rules and traditions. They were corrupted and this corruption lead to Joseph K.’ as an alienated person.

Franz Kafka tried to show the corruption of modern society in his book ‘Trial’.Society could judge people from one perspective. The government's perspective was true for everyone. There was no objectivity in their ideas. They could not think subjectively. This objectivity is problematic for Joseph K. as a protagonist of the book ‘Trial’.

We could see that there were two antagonists of Joseph K. in the book ‘Trial’. The first antagonist was society itself. Their sense of justice was manipulated by some powers. Without question, everyone in the book ‘Trial’ obeyed the rules of the system. It was normal for society who were corrupted and manipulated by the power of authority. Authority was a controller of everything in modern societies.

It was not only dominating people’s ideas but also their fates. When these events were happening to society, how they dare to say something objectively to Joseph K.? They just knew how harsh being arrested and accused. They did not underlying things that Joseph was being accused. So the self-questioning was not existed in book ‘Trial’ except for Joseph K. These events leaded to him questioning what he had done and what he might thougt about this accuse.

For Franz Kafka, the power of totalitarianism was abusing and controlling people in every aspect. So he handled this theme very well in the book ‘Trial’.In totalitarian societies, people always being suppressed and judged in every single minute. There was not genuine ideas in a totalitarian society. Kafka described his idea with Joseph K., our protagonist in ‘Trial’.He was trying to explain the psychological development of Joseph K. from the beginning the end.

“How can I go into the bank when I’m under arrest?” “I see you’ve misunderstood me,” said the supervisor who was already at the door. “It’s true that you’re under arrest, but that shouldn’t stop you from carrying out your job. And there shouldn’t be anything to stop you from carrying on with your usual life.” Trial (pg 18)

For Joseph K. it was nonsense both being arrested and permitted to go work.He did not know his right of living disposed of by authority. With an authority, his breathing would have been limited with his brand ‘arrested’. The power of authority sticked on him a brand. A shameful brand for all people in Kafka’s society. But they could not understand that every man might made a mistake. Under the authority, they had no utter any word or idea. So being thoughtless made them a flock in a sheep herd. Their road was only single ‘the government and rules. They thought as ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’ So they were judging people critically. Because they had no idea about being arrested or accusing at all.

Joseph K.‘s alienation begins with kissing Mrs.Burstner in the novel. It affects both sides. After kissing there is nothing happened anymore. It reflects how relationships are problematic and corrupted in the novel. Joseph K. as a protagonist he can not control his life totally. Kissing Mrs.Burstner ends with alienation between Joseph K. and Mrs.Burstner.

Also, in the novel, bileratel relations are not good. It depends on Joseph K.’s half arrestment situation. Even in his apartment occupants sees him as guilty. As a result, they do not interact with Josep7h K. Also, his colleagues see him as a suspect. These events result in Joseph K.’s alienation and isolation as an individual in the novel ‘Trial’.

He turned to K. with the tone of someone who knows his facts and said, “you are a house painter?” “No,” said K., “I am the chief clerk in a large bank.” This reply was followed by laughter among the right-hand faction down in the hall, it was so hearty that K. couldn’t stop himself joining in with it. Trial (pg 48)

In this conversation between Joseph K. and the judge, Joseph K. wants to resist as an individual for all norms of society and government. At first, it worked but then the judge shut all crowd up. It shows how dominant is authority in Joseph K.’s society. This means that there is nothing about individualism and will not exist. The whole hall have to obey the judge who is representer of the government. Otherwise their biggest fear, being arrested will happen to them.

Kafka also explored the relationship between authority and law using K.’s efforts to uncover why he has been put on trial. In the first chapter, K. asks “what sort of people were they? What were they talking about? To which authority did they belong?

It shows us how the elements of individual life are ignored and corrupted in the novel. They can not act or move. It is a strict society. The members of this society are caged by the government.

Law and judgment in the trial

From beginning to end, the novel ‘Trial’ includes the harsh power of the law system. The system not only ruling people but also controlling their lives directly. It is easy to say that the members of society are afraid of being guilty. So, they can not move like an individual. There is no individual rights or sign of it. The only sign that we can see is harshness and fear in the novel ‘Trial’.

The mystery of the court is amplified by the locations it resides in the novel. The court is always referred to in the singular, even though it is located in a myriad of unexpected places. The first encounter K. has with the court is in an attic, past a warren of stairs and alleys. Later in the novel, the court is revealed to reside in many other places too; the punishment of disobedient warders occurs in a small lumber room at K’s bank offices, and when K. visits Titorelli the painter, court offices are directly next door. The painter remarks “didn’t you know there were court offices here? They’re practically in all the attics, why shouldn’t they be here too?” The court has a claim to an unexpectedly wide set of resources, including ownership of the painter’s premises and having control of a group of girls that pester K. on his way to see Titorelli. The painter explains matter of factly “everything, you see, belongs to the court.” The court is a single entity but has multiple locations and strange resources at its disposal. This is a similar notion to ‘the law’ which is referred to in the singular but comprises many personal and distinct parts. The singular noun is used to denote the unity of the system; the court in The Trial is a similar creature to the abstract ‘law’ of Kafka’s reality.

Kafka illustrated how legitimacy may be attained through time and practice. As the novel progresses K. learns that many other characters are not only familiar with the court but accept its workings, and slowly he comes to recognize it also. At the end of the novel, K. does not know whether the men who come for him are from the court; he merely presumes them to be so: “[s]o they’ve sent second rate actors to fetch me.”

Society in utopia

In the society in which Thomas More was born, there was a human condition in which people fell into poverty and the price paid in the most severe ways. It had a dimension of poverty, cruelty, and despair, as well as a dimension that pushed people into crime.

According to More, the most important cause of poverty is the aristocrats who have no benefit to society and exploit the foresight of others. Aristocrats, not only the people they exploit, but also because of their arbitrary expenditures, they both deprive people and the people they work with.

More, as another important cause of poverty, shows exploitation and monopoly in rural areas. By mentioning the increase in the cost of growing the agricultural land into the pasture and making it irreparable for agriculture and the increase in the cost of crime, unemployment, and the increase in crime caused by forced migration as a result of the passing of these pastures used for the wool trade to the monopoly of the rich minority, More, thus demonstrates the causes of the injustice and poverty.

More argues that the transformation of the mode of hierarchical relationship based on inequality between advantageous and disadvantaged people into an equality of affair is possible through the relevance of the private property, which he believes is the basis of social inequality and the social evils that result therefrom. In this context, the understanding of justice offered by More is understood from a perspective to establish social equality in accordance with the common good principle. For his reason, a just society is understood as a fair and well-organized political order in which social equality is established with reference to the common good principle, as in the case of the imaginary Utopian society. Accordingly, More, Utopia II. In his book, he proposes, through the design of society, that justice should be achieved, the elimination of private property, and the replacement of common property.

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The Comparison between Franz Kafka’s Trial and Thomas More’s Utopia’s Effects on Society and Individual. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
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