“In the Penal Colony” is a short story by Franz Kafka that blends elements of surrealism and tragedy. It was written in 1914, originally published in German in 1919 (as In der Strafkolonie), and translated and published in English in 1941. “In the Penal Colony” is the story of a visitor to an unnamed island penal colony and an officer who proudly explains his process of executing men with no trial or even an explanation of charges to those accused. The story is characteristic of Kafka’s work in which he often melds realism with fantastical elements and characters who grapple with isolation and alienation.


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See a complete list of the characters in “In The Penal Colony” and in-depth analyses of the Traveler and The Officer.

Literary Devices

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Deeper Study

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