The Magistrate, the story’s first-person narrator, an administrator of a territory belonging to an unnamed empire. He is an aging and somewhat decadent man who explains that he has lived in the remote settlement for decades and has haphazardly and inefficiently carried out his administrative duties on behalf of the empire. Although he admits to his laziness, his fondness for young native girls, and his satisfaction with the old ways of imperialism, he still emerges as an admirable and sympathetic character. When he comprehends the full extent of the cruelty condoned by the new regime, which is determined to save the empire at any cost, he regrets his initial compliance with the Third Bureau’s orders and rebels, then becomes a prisoner himself. At the same time, he searches for some significance in his own wasted life. In the light of the novel’s allegorical overtones, the character of The Magistrate represents all men and women who face not only their inherent weaknesses but the forces of totalitarianism as well. At the story’s conclusion, The Magistrate simply goes on living, however uneasily, and continues his struggle to find a clear pattern in the complexities of life.
Colonel Joll, an official in the mysterious Third Bureau, an arm of the Civil Guard that was created to protect the empire, which is threatened by barbarians. This young officer specializes in torture and...
(The entire section is 442 words.)