In the Penal Colony Essay

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Brooks and Warren were central figures in the New Criticism movement in America in the 1930s and 1940s. In the following excerpt, the critics use Austin Warren's interpretation of Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" to demonstrate that the story is "an allegory concerning the state of religion in the modern world."

One realizes that this story is not intended to be a realistic account of events which are to be judged by ordinary notions of probability. It is a fantasy. The strangeness of the situation, the unusual behavior of the condemned man and the soldier, the mysterious nature of the machine, all indicate that we are dealing with fantasy, just as we are in "The Lottery."

But are we to take the story to be merely fantastic? Do we not, rather, expect that the unrealistic and fantastic elements in such a piece of fiction as "In the Penal...

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This section contains 1,856 words
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Buy the In the Penal Colony Study Guide
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In the Penal Colony from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.