In the Penal Colony

by

Franz Kafka

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The Soldier Character Analysis

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 execution itself, although he dutifully follows the officer’s commands and helps to strap the prisoner to the apparatus. After the prisoner is freed, the soldier helps him gather his clothes and is reluctant to save the officer after he straps himself to the apparatus—suggesting he has more in common with the prisoner than the higher ranking official. Throughout the story, the solider is primarily a mute presence who finally speaks near the end when he gives the explorer a brief explanation about the old Commandant’s grave and tries to escape the penal colony with the prisoner, only to be thwarted by the explorer. The soldier’s attempt to flee suggest that even though the apparatus and the officer are gone, life is still undesirable in the penal colony.
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The Soldier Character Timeline in In the Penal Colony

The timeline below shows where the character The Soldier appears in In the Penal Colony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
In the Penal Colony
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...explorer has agreed to watch the execution “merely out of politeness.” Behind the pair, a soldier guards a lethargic prisoner who will be executed for disobedient and insulting behavior to a... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...to absorb the interest of the explorer from the apparatus, the officer rouses the dozing soldier to pull the prisoner back onto his feet. (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Beginning the work of the execution, the soldier haphazardly cuts off the clothing of the prisoner, leaving him surprised and naked as the... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
As the officer and the soldier busy themselves with preparing the prisoner for execution, the explorer struggles with his role in... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...a “mild doctrine” because he does not starve the prisoners before the execution. As the soldier futilely tries to clean the apparatus, the officer reveals that he is the “sole  advocate”... (full context)
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Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
After a brief bit of wrestling with the soldier, the prisoner, upon seeing the officer naked, realizes a change is at hand and “grins”... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...the explorer, who is completely entranced before noticing the curious and rapt attention of the soldier and the prisoner. Seeing the men delighting in the execution makes the explorer disgusted. Finally... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...the officer from the bonds of the apparatus, the explorer receives help reluctantly from the soldier and prisoner. As they try to save the officer, the explorer gets a last glimpse... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
The explorer, soldier, and prisoner return to the penal colony and visit a teahouse, which holds the grave... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Power and Justice Theme Icon
Culture and Otherness Theme Icon
...explorer quickly exits the teahouse, showing he has no interest in talking with anyone. The soldier and the prisoner run after the explorer, attempting to “force him” to take them off... (full context)