Elements Of Power In Franz Kafka's 'In The Penal Colony'

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Demise Will Seelman “Any system that values pleasure over human life is a very dangerous one indeed.” (Kassem). Franz Kafka’s notorious work, In the Penal Colony, incorporates the main element of power, all while creating subsidiary arguments about subversion and authority. The reason why Kafka highlights these features is that it shows the extent to which a person or regime can reach, as evident in the story, while conversely showing what it takes to resist it. The four characters in the story (The Traveler, The Officer, The Condemned Man, and The Soldier) all have roles that contribute to the overarching theme of power, with some contributing more than others. The short story centers around ‘The Apparatus’, which is the main ‘power’ device, and the characters’ roles are based in relation to it. A notorious British Politician, Lord Acton, famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, which contributes to the idea that the power the apparatus has, leads to the downfall of The Officer through the absolute corruption of the old Commandant and The Officer’s regime on the colony. Franz Kafka’s writings lead readers to believe that they contain ‘Kafkaesque’ qualities. Merriam Webster defines ‘Kafkaesque as having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality’ (Webster). In the Penal Colony does indeed possess a fair share of these qualities, however, when broken down, the elements of sovereignty, rebellion, and textuality are all

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