In Kafka's, "In the Penal Colony", he writes about a machine that delivers a very gruesome punishment that is along the lines of torture. In today's society, that type of punishment would be considered inhumane and immoral. Many years later, Michel Foucault wrote and published a book, Discipline and Punishment, which began by describing a very detailed murder that was considered a punishment. Kafka's objective was to show that people with limited knowledge will accept anything they are told. In terms of the people inhabiting the island, they knew no other type of judicial system, therefore they had no choice but the accept the terms of their judicial system and the Apparatus. Foucault then responded with Discipline and Punishment to show the evolution of punishment and things can change, and in one instance in as little as twenty years.
When comparing Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment and Kafka's "In the Penal Colony", there are many similarities but also many differences. The similarities are the aspect of punishing the body, punishment being a spectacle, and how punishment evolves into a private matter. In Kafka's story, prisoners are made to lie down on a bed and then go through 12 hours of torture of having their punishment tattooed onto their bodies. In Foucault's book, he explains a terrifying account of what was considered punishment a long time ago. I believe that Foucault begN his book that way because he wanted to shock the reader in their core values, because as soon as the reader vividly replays his words in their hands, the automatically know where they stand in terms of what is fair and what is not fair punishment. Both of the books also show an evolution into a private version of punishment, where it is only the prisoner and the executioner rather than the prisoner, the executioner and everyone in the town that did not have something to do that day.
Some of the differences are directly paralleled in Foucault's obstacles. Foucault believes in six obstacles. One is that a punishment should have a direct correlation from the act of crime to the punishment given. In Kafka, there is no direct correlation, it is a "one size fits all" type of punishment. Another obstacle is that punishments need to be time sensitive, because they are made for learning. In Kafka, the life of the prisoner is over once they learn why they are being punished. Which directly leads to the next obstacle, which is that punishment is made for learning and rehabilitation. Foucault believes that one can be cured of their crime. In Kafka, the prisoner learns of their punishment, six hours into a twelve hour torture that is guaranteed to kill them. Therefore, they have no chance to change themselves or learn anything from the punishment.
Reading Foucault previous to reading Kafka gave Kafka's story a depth that I would not have had without reading it. Foucault laid the groundwork for me to realize the progression of how punishment has changed. When reading Kafka, I was able to see that for myself. In the colony, punishments were a public spectacle and everyone attended when the first Commandant was in charge, and then when he died, that "old world" type of punishment died with him. I was able to see how the punishment turned into a private matter between the prisoner and the executioner. Reading Foucault also showed me where I stand morally in the case of capital punishment, so when reading Kafka the voice in my head was extremely loud and Foucault's obstacles were the words it was yelling.