In the Penal Colony

Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’: A Microcosmic Enactment of the Historical Interaction Between the Colonial and Post-colonial Discourse College

“It was a machine like no other.”

The opening lines of Franz Kafka’s work ‘In the Penal Colony’ puts forward a cryptic yet insightful simile that sets the mood of the entire story. Kafka’s simile offers little further clarification, yet categorizes the machine in question as one that is different from all other known things. Being unknown, the machine becomes automatically disassociated from the reality of the reader, who feels alienated by not being able to relate to it. Such alienation and disassociation, especially in terms of culture, is a prevalent theme in the post-colonial world of today. Kafka, through his story of four men and a machine, paints a vividly impactful image of a society that is, in many ways, symbolic of the colonization that was rampant throughout the 19th century in most parts of the world. In its simplest form, colonization is the political and ideological dominance of one country over another that is significantly different from it in terms of its culture, traditions and values. Such domination is accompanied by the use of brute force, and is essentially exploitative in nature, as it works to the benefit of the dominant group, and to the abuse of the exploited one. Under such circumstances, conflict...

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