Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Penal Colony by Franz Kafka blog posts


Penal - of, pertaining to, or involving punishment, as for crimes or offenses
The Penal Colony. The Punishment Colony. This is a very fitting title for this particular story by Kafka. I started reading this one and there are a couple of questions I have that maybe you guys can help me out with.
The explorer is an interesting character that I don't understand. Since Kafka doesn't name any of his characters in The Penal Colony we are only introduced to him as simply The Explorer. He seems to be the only on with morals. The officer seems so intent on serving his Commandant, even though he seems more devoted to the old one rather than the new one, that all morality seems to fly out the door.

In all of Kafka's stories he seems to be creating his own world. In our world I am sure that a colony would take pleasure in seeing people's death sentences but Kafka writes in a way which makes the reader seem as far away from the world he is writing about as possible, for example, not naming his characters.

Let me take you to a passage on page 150. This is when the officer is talking about how each prisoner takes the punishment from the apparatus." But how quiet he grows at just about the sixth hour! Enlightenment comes to the most dull-witted. It begins around the eyes. From there it radiates. A moment that might tempt one to get under th Harrow oneself." I believe this is one of the most important passages I have read so far in this story. In the most severe forms of torture a human being will be enlightened. Enlightened by what? Do they have a religious experience? Do they finally see the error in there ways? Does anyone find it interesting that the fact that a person is enlightened during their sixth hour makes the officer actually want to get inside the apparatus himself? Also, "It begins around the eyes." This could just be the fact that James Joyce is following me around in life but Kafka has Enlightenment begins in the eyes makes me believe that he did this because of the myth of Oedipus.


" The Commandant in his wisdom ordained that the children should have the preference; I, of course, because of my office had the privilege of always being at hand; often enough I would be squatting there with a small child in either arm." (154). This sent me over the edge. People used to fight to get a spot at the chance to see the death sentence of a criminal and they would give priority spots. How shameless can a colony be? They, and when I say they I mean the colony sense Kafka uses no names, are taking the innocence of little children by letting them get the first spots to see a man be tortured for twelve hours because they most likely committed a small act of defiance. It is not good that I think the most sane character in this story is the mn who said " Throw that whip away or I'll eat you alive." to the captain. Like I said this is like a different world. Of course people like to see the punishement others, but not like this. The apparatus audience reminds me of the Salem witch trials but only worse. And when something is more immoral than the witch trials one could only imagine the other horrible things the Penial Colony has the power to do.

What would happen to the explorer if he pointed out the immoral acts that the officer is performing? The officer seems to really care about the thoughts the explorer has. I see this because the officer wants to fully explain how the apparatus works and if the explorer gets the wrong idea of the machine the officer quickly fixes this notion. "The explorer thought to himself...The injustice of the procedure and the inhumanity of the execution was undeniable. No one could supposed that he had any selfish interest in the manner, for the condemned man was a complete stranger..." (152). So obviously this island is one of the only places which uses such harsh punishment. The explorer is a traveler who has seen many places and never usually has urges to comfront the inhumanity that the people use but in this senario he wants to stand up for the prisoner. Will he?

Wrapping up my blogs on The Penal Colony I wanted to adress the theme of absurdism. As suspected the officer does put himself through the apparatus. I was thinking that Kafka wanted to satire how people are so devoted to there kings. All of The Commandant's follows were waiting for an absurd prophecy to come true. The prophecy went as such, "after a certain number of years the Commandant will rise again and lead his adherents from this house to recover the colony. Have faith and wait!" (167). This is absolutely ridiculous. I wish I could understand why Kafka ended the story like he did. He never really answers many questions. He does have the officer go on a rant of why he was trying to impress the explorer and his planes to overthrow the new Commandant which answers many of my earlier questions but the end of the story is very anti-climactic.

The condemned man and the soldier make the effort to leave the corrupt colony but the explorer leaves them. I believe what he witnessed was enough and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the colony so he left and didn't look back. The author's purpose I am still confused about. At first I was thinking it was to show the enlightenment a person can gain during their last few moments of death that no one can understand until they have reached that moment in their life. After finishing the story I believe the author's purpose was to show corruption in a colony and how people follow inhumane acts just for amusement. I don't think I have gotten it right just yet, but I feel I am close.

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