Ambiguity of Characters in Franz Kafka’s ‘in the Penal Colony’ and ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’

2395 WordsAug 4, 201310 Pages
Ambiguity of Characters in Franz Kafka’s ‘In The Penal Colony’ and ‘Waiting for The Barbarians’ J.M. Coetzee is one of many well-known post-colonial writers. He was born and spent hid childhood in South Africa. Therefore, many people think that his novel “Waiting for The Barbarians” is an allegory of the situation of South African in a time of apartheid (Head 75). In addition, Coetzee is strongly influenced by the famous author, Franz Kafka. As a result, it is not surprised that “Waiting for the Barbarians” has many similarities to Kafka’s “In The Penal Colony”. In terms of intertexuality, this essay will discuss the ambiguity of characters in Kafka’s ‘In The Penal Colony’ and Coetzee’s ‘Waiting for The Barbarians’ in order to learn…show more content…
In ‘In The Penal Colony’, the Officer identifies himself as a civilized person because he wears a uniform to remind himself of his ‘home’ country, a symbol of civilization. Moreover, he believes that his duty in torturing people is a justified action that will bring ‘justice’ to the people. But we, as readers, can see that his punishment for the prisoner is inhumane and immoral, and that it has nothing to do with civilization. Likewise, in ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, Colonel Joll also believes that he is civilized by wearing ‘sunglasses’ which is a symbol of civilization because everyone in his homeland wears it. However, it is shown that his brutality and atrocity toward the innocent people whom he defines as ‘barbarians’ are not civilize at all but rather barbaric. On the contrary, the natives called as ‘barbarians’ have never done any uncivilized or barbaric things. They have their own language, and, according to the Magistrate’s excavation, probably used to have a very prosperous kingdom in the past. In other word, the identification of who is actually a civilized person is ambiguous. Lastly, the identification of who is the real victim is unclear. In ‘In the Penal Colony’, it is unclear if the Officer is actually a man we should denounce for his cruelty. His determination and loyalty to his belief and to the Old Commandant are praised even by the Traveler since he is willing to die for them. Besides, The

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