In the Penal Colony by KafkaLiteratureWorld Literature

Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” Analysis

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A detailed analysis of “In the Penal Colony” including symbolism, style and story’s background.

Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’ is a shorty story of the writer that was created in 1914 and revealed to the general public in October 1919. The point of interest of the story corresponds to the ‘go to’ of the Explorer to the penal colony with a purpose to perceive their grotesque means of implementing punishments to the condemned. It is from right here that the Explorer uncovers the usage of an execution machine and the way it symbolizes the justice system within the place. Written in a indifferent and third-person standpoint, Kafka is ready to present readers with a visible illustration of the scenario as it’s taking place with none traces of help or critique to the actions of characters. Arguably, this type of storytelling permits readers to uncover themselves the teachings it gives significantly in man’s potential to abide blindly to their particular person and collective perception techniques.

Conducting an analysis of “In the Penal Colony”, we extracted some important discussion as:

What about style and technique?

Kafka’s allegory doesn’t set up a strict, point-for-point parallelism between its literal and summary ranges of that means, Kafka’s writing style is practical in its Swiftian accumulation of believable element, stressing a sober sense of documentary verisimilitude. After all, the explorer is an empirically skilled social scientist, conditioned to watch cultural patterns dispassionately and keep an angle of suspended judgment.
Kafka was by no means wholly glad with the ending of this story. He wrote an acquaintance that “two or three pages shortly earlier than the top of the story are contrived.” In these pages, the explorer kneels earlier than the tombstone over the previous commandant’s grave in order that he can study the “very small letters” on it, which promise that the commandant “will rise again and lead his adherents . . . to recover the colony. Have faith and wait!”

Read About: Analysis of Kafka’s “The Judgment”

Setting of “In the Penal Colony”

The island colony is supervised by uniformed troopers of assorted ranks. Although their heavy, ornate uniforms are unsuitable for the tropical local weather of the colony, they’re worn as reminders of residence. “We don’t want to neglect about home,” the officer explains to the explorer. The geographical and the political setting are solely hinted at by Kafka. Readers know that the valley wherein the execution machine is positioned is a sizzling and sandy place, surrounded by “naked crags.” Readers know that the colonial power might not be European, however that the
officer is ready to talk with the explorer in French. However, there may be a lot that’s unexplained. Strictly talking, a penal colony can be an outpost utilized by a governing nation for the expulsion of criminals. The luxuries of exiling wrong-doers to a faraway place is barely a choice for an ideal energy. This specific colony appears to have an indigenous inhabitants. The ladies who encompass the brand new Commandant and the dock laborers who sit on the tea-house tables may additionally have been imported by the colonial energy. But their presence makes the island way more than merely a storehouse for convicts. It is a blended society requiring its personal codes of social conduct and personal system of legislation and order. There is not any reference to the customs and lifestyle of the house nation, aside from that they aren’t European and the Commandant is not just certain by them. Indeed, the outdated Commandant arrange the penal colony based on his personal plan. “The organization of the whole colony is his work,” the official tells the explorer.

Narration or Point-of-view

Kafka employs an indifferent, impartial narrative approach wherein every character acts with out remark from the narrator. The viewpoint, although third-person, tends to be carefully aligned with the explorer’s expertise. The story opens within the valley as a result of that’s the place the explorer is. Readers accompany him to the tea-house on the finish of the story, and it ends as he departs the island for his steamship. Because of this relationship between the narration and the explorer, readers determine along with his mental and emotional predicament. The officer has probably the most to say, and spends a lot time attempting to learn the brand new Commandant’s intentions. Until the very finish of the story readers know concerning the outdated and the brand new Commandants from what the officer has stated, and he can’t be thought of an entirely dependable supply of knowledge. He claims to be “the sole advocate of the old Commandant’s tradition.” Others, referred to as “adherents,” he despises for the mealy-mouthed ambiguities and unwillingness to be open about their loyalties. Nevertheless, this ”objective” viewpoint doesn’t make clear the writer’s intentions. Kafka detaches himself from his characters to be able to forestall being too apparent in his message.

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Concerning the Symbolism in “In the Penal Colony”

It is mostly agreed that “In the Penal Colony” is a parable with meanings away from the literal episodes
described. Kafka was Jewish, and there’s robust consensus among critics for deciphering the story as a
commentary on orthodox versus reformed Judaism. The officer represents the standard orthodox wing of Judaism. The former Commandant’s guiding plans—“my most precious possessions”—includes “a labyrinth of traces crossing and recrossing one another” and symbolize the script by which the Commandments have been written.
The officer doesn’t converse of legal guidelines being damaged. He speaks of Commandments disobeyed. The variety of biblical pictures that crop up all through the story makes it inconceivable to find out the exact allegorical studying.
Although the strategy could be completely different, the setting and the period of the execution course of definitely invite the reader to consider the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This comparability is made extra compelling by the imagery used—the blood and water being washed into the pit and the rice pap fed to the dying man. Finally, the officer sacrifices himself to the machine, and in doing so causes it to collapse. By dying he destroys the very image of legislation and order he had presupposed to preserve.


So this was a detailed analysis of “In the Penal Colony”, apart from themes and to the point symbolism. The later will be discussed in the next post.

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