english 111J

Thursday, April 20, 2006

kafka and foucault

the torture in in the penal colony differs from the "classical torture" that foucault writes of in that it has absolutely nothing to do with truth. foucault says "the function of the public torture and execution was the reveal the truth" (44), a concept completely lacking from the torture in in the penal colony. in the penal colony kafka writes about, they use the machine to torture and kill people who never even got to defend themselves. they do not use torture to seek the truth. the torture foucault writes about was usually the culmination of a trial in which the accused was found guilty. the fact that a trial was held shows a quest for truth and the torture and execution was seen as "the moment of truth" (43) because the last moments, "when the guilty man no longer has anything to lose, are won for the full light of truth" (43). it was hoped that the condemed man would confess during the torture and execution. the officer in the penal colony had no hope for that. he simply decided that someone was guilty and then killed them in a gruesome way that did not even allow them to speak the truth for a gag was placed in their mouth until they were too weak to scream. there is no element of the duel because the officer does not care, he only wishes to see what he feels is justice, there is no duel over whether or not the man will confess. i think the difference lies in that foucault's examples take place in a normal society whereas the examples from in the penal colony take place in a penal colony where anything goes and the officer/judge pretty much has free reign.

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