Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Chief of Police

The Chief of Police, the quintessential bureaucrat. Faced with the fact that the last political prisoner in his state has reformed and must be released, the Chief despairs, realizing that he no longer has a function. He questions the Prisoner’s sincerity, then tries to persuade him that he does not really want to reform or that he would be better off in prison. When all these efforts fail, the Chief is forced to find another way of maintaining his position. He appeals to his deputy, a sergeant who functions as an agent-provocateur, arguing that they need to find another dissenter if they are to keep their jobs. The Sergeant agrees to be imprisoned as a dissenter. When the General comes to see the new prisoner, the Chief finds himself in the difficult position of wanting to protect the Sergeant, whom he does not consider a real political prisoner, while appearing to be zealous in his pursuit of justice.

The Prisoner

The Prisoner, a former revolutionary, later the General’s aide-de-camp. When negotiating his release, the Prisoner claims vigorously that he has reformed, that he now loves his country and its rulers. So persuasive is he that he ultimately secures a position as aide-de-camp to the General and returns with the General to the prison. As an expert in dissidence, the Prisoner is asked to interrogate the Sergeant to see if he is truly a dissident. When the Prisoner concludes that the Sergeant is indeed a genuine dissident, the Chief demands that he prove his case. He does so by proposing an experiment in which the Sergeant will be given the opportunity to throw a bomb at the General, which the Sergeant does. When the Chief arrests the Prisoner for...

(The entire section is 707 words.)