Before the Law
"Before the law, there stands a guard. A man comes from the country, begging admittance to the law. But the guard cannot admit him. Can he hope to enter at a later time? 'That is possible,' says the guard. The man tries to peer through the entrance. He had been taught that the law should be accessible to every man. 'Do not attempt to enter without my permission,' says the guard. 'I am very powerful. Yet I am the least of all the guards. From hall to hall, door after door, each guard is more powerful than the last.' By the guard's permission, the man sits down by the side of the door, and there he waits. For years, he waits. Everything he has, he gives away in the hope of bribing the guard, who never fails to say to him, 'I take what you give me only so that you will not feel that you have left something undone.' Keeping his watch during the long years, the man has learned to know even the fleas in the guard's fur collar. The man growing childish in old age, he begs the very fleas to persuade the guard to change his mind and allow him to enter. His sight has dimmed, but in the darkness he perceives a radiance streaming immortally from the door of the law. And now, before he dies, all he's experienced condenses into one question, a question he's never asked. He beckons to the guard. Says the guard, 'You are insatiable! What is it now?' Says the man, 'Every man strives to attain the law. How is it then that in all these years, no one else has ever come here, seeking admittance?' His hearing has failed, so the guard yells into his ear, 'No one else but you could ever have obtained admittance! No one else could enter this door! This door was intended only for you! And now, I am going to close it.' This tale is told during the story called The Trial. It has been said that the logic of this story is the logic of a dream . . . a nightmare."