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In the Penal Colony

In the Penal Colony

by Franz Kafka

In the Penal Colony Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory

Sometimes, there’s more to Lit than meets the eye.

Reading the story allegorically

A lot of readers are tempted to look at the penal colony itself as an allegory for something. What's an allegory? Think of it as a story in which the parts of the story (characters, objects, events...

Not reading the story strictly as an allegory

Other readers, however, think that it's wrong to read Kafka as an allegory, and believe he didn't intend his stories to be read that way. The arguments against allegorical readings are complex, but...

The Penal Colony

As we've said in "Reading the story allegorically," the penal colony itself is often read as an allegory. If you do that, you'll read the whole story as an allegory. And you can do that in multiple...

The Officer

Depending on how you read the penal colony itself, the officer will change, too. In Warren's view (see "Reading the story allegorically" above), the officer is something of a priest figure, and def...

The Machine or Apparatus

The machine can also be read a bunch of different ways, depending on the frame you take. In Warren's religious allegory, it's something like the Church, or organized religion, which is responsible...

The Old Commandant

He might be God, a dictator, a prophet figure of some kind, or just a man on a power trip. Check out his "Character Analysis" for more.

The Inscription

The script actually used to write on the body of the condemned man definitely seems to have a sort of religious symbolism about it. It's elaborate, and it's incomprehensible to the uninitiated, as...

The Body

The body in the story isn't so much a symbol or an allegory as something emphasized in the story. The punishment of a condemned man has a lot to do with his body. Not just because it's an immensely...
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