In the Penal Colony


Franz Kafka

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In the Penal Colony Characters

The Explorer

A protagonist with an ambiguous moral compass, the explorer is a distinguished visitor to the penal colony implied to have a European background. As the explorer witnesses the officer’s dying way of life, he… read analysis of The Explorer

The Officer

The story’s antagonist, the officer acts as judge, jury, and executioner in the penal colony and is the last person who adheres to the rule of law created by the old Commandant. The officer… read analysis of The Officer

The Soldier

A man in charge of watching the prisoner and assisting with the execution. The soldier is unable to understand the explorer and the officer as they converse in French and is generally uninterested in the… read analysis of The Soldier

The Prisoner

A man sentenced to death for failing to wake up and salute his captain’s door, an arbitrary and absurd conviction. The prisoner is described as a stupid and naïve individual, representative of the average person… read analysis of The Prisoner

The Old Commandant

An authoritarian leader and inventor of the apparatus, the old Commandant is dead at the outset of the story but at one point had the power to command the respect of the entire penal… read analysis of The Old Commandant
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The New Commandant

The current leader of the penal colony who replaced the old Commandant. The new Commandant does not appear in the story in person, though he is clearly loathed by the officer. The new… read analysis of The New Commandant

The Dockworkers

A group of poor, humble men who spend time at a teahouse in the penal colony. The dockworkers show the explorer the grave of the old Commandant and collect a few coins for their trouble… read analysis of The Dockworkers