In the Penal Colony

by

Franz Kafka

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The New Commandant Character Analysis

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 Commandant invites the explorer to view an execution during his visit to the penal colony, a move that the officer assumes is made to further devalue the old Commandant’s system of justice and the apparatus. Despite the officer’s criticisms, the new Commandant has made seemingly positive changes to the penal colony, such as holding conferences that the public can view as a way of participating in political life. The new Commandant represents a societal shift in the penal colony toward a more liberal, Western mentality further reinforced when the explorer tells the officer that he will not try to convince the new Commandant to keep using the apparatus. Even with the new Commandant’s changes, it is suggested by the prisoner and the soldier’s attempted escape at the end of the story that life on the penal colony remains unpleasant.

The New Commandant Quotes in In the Penal Colony

The In the Penal Colony quotes below are all either spoken by The New Commandant or refer to The New Commandant. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Schocken Books edition of In the Penal Colony published in 1995.
In the Penal Colony Quotes

“He has calculated it carefully: this is your second day on the island, you did not know the old Commandant and his ways, you are conditioned by European ways of thought, perhaps you object on principle to capital punishment in general and to such mechanical instruments of death in particular…”

Related Symbols: The Apparatus
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

“Of course the Commandant is the kind of man to have turned these conferences into public spectacles. He has had a gallery built that is always packed with spectators. I am compelled to take part in the conferences, but they make me sick with disgust.”

Related Characters: The Officer (speaker), The Explorer , The New Commandant
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
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The New Commandant Character Timeline in In the Penal Colony

The timeline below shows where the character The New Commandant appears in In the Penal Colony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
In the Penal Colony
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...worshipful as he describes the old Commandant’s work as “flawless” and clearly shows disdain for the new Commandant by suggesting that the new leader couldn’t come up with any better ideas even if... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...and the Harrow—the explorer becomes more interested in the machine. The officer shows contempt toward the new Commandant , who didn’t explain the procedure to the explorer in the way that the old... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
...to be doubted.” However, this is a system that is beginning to be overturned by the new Commandant . (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...as “extraordinary measures” that must be needed on a penal colony. However, he hopes that the new Commandant might intervene.  Satisfied with his explanation of the judicial system, the officer enthusiastically returns to... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...access” to money when it came to maintaining the apparatus, the officer bitterly notes that the new Commandant is “attacking” the old ways of doing things by distributing inferior parts  for the apparatus... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...affairs—namely the emptiness of the valley and the decrepit apparatus—is shameful. The officer suspects that the new Commandant will use the authority and opinion of the explorer, a famous guest “conditioned by European... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...Europe they haven’t used torture since “the Middle Ages.” The officer cautions the explorer, saying the new Commandant will twist anything the explorer says into a pretext to discontinuing the apparatus. Gleeful, the... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...authority. The officer lays out his plan: the explorer will make an eloquent speech when the new Commandant holds one of his conferences that are “public spectacles” open to the anyone. At the... (full context)