I believe that the Officer from “In the Penal Colony” is truly a good person, however horrible some of his actions may be. He took pride in his work and always believed what he was doing was right until the very end, and I feel like that is a major component of a good person.
While determining what makes a good person is very difficult, one of my personal criteria is striving to do what is right. Throughout this story, the Officer did this, for he truly believed he was carrying out justice in his punishments. When first describing the machine to the Traveller, he said he was performing an “honorable duty” and that he was “certainly the person best able to explain our style of sentencing” (Kafka par. 8). He was proud of his duties and responsibilities, and we are never proud of something that we do not believe is right. When deflecting some of the Traveller’s questions about the justness of their sentencing procedure, the Officer once again believed he was serving justice, for he said “It would be useless to give him that information. He experiences it on his own body.” (Kafka par. 11)
In the condemnation of the Condemned Man, the Officer believed he had sufficient evidence to judge him, for “Guilt is always beyond a doubt”. When the Condemned Man supposedly threatens a captain by saying “Throw away that whip or I’ll eat you up”, (Kafka par. 12) I would think he was guilty as well.
One must consider the fact that this was a society dominated by military influences, and therefore, before condemning the Officer, realize that he also would have been punished in the times of the Old Commandant if he had spoken out against the machine and this form of execution. He was following orders, and by the time the New Commandant took charge, the Officer believed in the machine and its justness. Once the Officer realized no one else believed in the machine as he did, he freed the Condemned Man and was willing to subject himself to the same torturous death that he had put so many others through. This, in my opinion, is what ultimately makes him good. Even though me met a quicker death without all of the torturous hours, he wanted to put himself through it, and I think he was trying to redeem himself. In my opinion, he succeeded, and therefore was a good man.