paper 1 - Ankur Gupta Professor Mitchell 20 March 2005 The...

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Ankur Gupta Professor Mitchell 20 March 2005 The Community vs. the Individual- the Root of Basic Tension In both Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony and Max Weber’s Science as a Vocation , there is a basic question that burns to be answered. For Kafka the question is: Should the penal colony’s judicial system be changed? And for Weber: What role should modern science play in our lives? These questions create an underlying tension as two opposing opinions emerge to answer each. Though the tensions in these two pieces of literature seem entirely unrelated, they stem from the same source. Tension arises because both situations can be viewed with either a focus on the individual or on the community as a whole. A difference in perspective leads to a difference in opinion on the answers to these burning questions. The basic tension that defines the modernity of each piece of literature stems from a disconnection between the ideals of the individual versus that of the group. In Kafka’s novella, the officer focuses on the ideals of the community and rationalizes his actions based on what he feels he is accomplishing for the colony as a whole. He believes that his machine promotes both justice and enlightenment for the condemned. He tells a story to the explorer about past sentences that illuminates this emphasis on broader ideals instead of individual murders. “I would be squatting there with a small child in either arm. How we all absorbed the look of transfiguration on the face of the sufferer, how we bathed our cheeks in the radiation of that justice, achieved at last and fading so quickly.” (154) The image of the officer viewing brutal, bloody torture
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with children is striking. It illustrates his extreme perception of the situation. All he sees is the beauty of the enlightenment and justice that he feels is occurring and he wants to share it with young children and he is so consumed by this point of view that he does not realize that this intense, gory situation could be very traumatic for a child. Also, the diction that the officer chooses, using words such as “absorbed” and “bathed,” emphasizes how engrossed he is in his positive point of view on the horrors of the machine. In this quote he focuses on the enlightenment or, “look of transfiguration,” and the “radiation of that justice” that the prisoner produces instead of on the individual prisoner. The officer simply refers to the prisoner as “the sufferer” and this diction proves that the officer knows the prisoner is suffering but simply does not care. He justifies murder and torture by ignoring the sanctity of the life of each individual he kills and focusing solely on improving the community as a whole through the ideals that he feels
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course IHUM 53 taught by Professor Nightingale,white during the Winter '08 term at Stanford.

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paper 1 - Ankur Gupta Professor Mitchell 20 March 2005 The...

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