The Apparatus and God’s Law

When reading “In the Penal Colony”, I could not help but think of the Old Commandant as the Old Testament God and the New Commandant as the New Testament God. This led me to view the apparatus as the Old Testament law and judgment, and the purpose of it breaking is to symbolize the end of Old Testament law.

When the Traveller asks about the Old Commandant he asks the Officer if he was “in his own person a combination of everything? Was he soldier, judge, engineer, chemist, and draftsman?” (Kafka par. 9) he gives the feeling that the Old Commandant was omnipotent, one of the characteristics of God. Also, the images of how the executions were in the days of the Old Commandant give the feeling of execution in the days of the Old Testament, when executions were a public spectacle. The Officer describes executions in the time of the Old Commandant as such “The entire valley was overflowing with people, even a day before the execution. They all came merely to watch” (Kafka par. 21), so obviously they were a public spectacle as well.

While the Old Commandant was able to judge and punish as he wished, just like the Old Testament God, the New Commandant was interested in creating a more fair system. He was trying to change the old ways to be more fair for those accused, just as the New Testament God, and he did not want to be the sole person giving judgment and punishment.

So if the Old Commandant is a symbol for the Old Testament God, and the New Commandant is a symbol for the New Testament God, then the apparatus is a symbol for the law and judgment of the Old Testament God. The apparatus was the means of enforcing the will of the Old Commandant, just as sole judgment and the law were the means of enforcing the will of the Old Testament God. The continual disrepair of the apparatus correlates with the disintegration of the need of the harsh judgments from God in the Old Testament, and the eventual breaking of the apparatus is the breaking of the need of this law.

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