Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 347
Ferdinand Kugler is the main character, or protagonist, of this short story. He has recently died and is now to be judged by a panel of three human judges, and they will decide his fate: whether he will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. During his lifetime, he murdered nine people. His final victim was a police officer who was pursuing him in order to make an arrest, but Kugler had vowed that he'd never allow himself to be captured. Therefore, he shot this police officer, but the police officer also managed to shoot Kugler seven times as well. Thus, Kugler was never brought to justice on earth. He faces it now.
The panel of three judges, and the presiding judge in particular, are also characters. The judges are human beings, because, as God says in the story, human beings can only be judged by other human beings; we do not actually deserve to be judged by the divine. The judges call God as a witness, who knows everything about the accused, though they ask him to stick to the "subject at hand" rather than including lots of information and details that do not actually pertain to the case. In other words, they are interested only in hearing about the murders Kugler committed and not in any of the good qualities that he possessed or good deeds he did during his life. The judges do not care about why Kugler stole a rose as a child, for example: only that he stole it.
God, however, does care about Kugler's motive, and God remembers why the man stole the flower when he was a boy: to give it to a little girl. Kugler's motive behind the crime was actually quite sweet and generous, but the judges do not care about this. God sees both the good and the bad in Kugler's character, in the character of each person, and this is why we do not deserve to be judged by him. Only we can judge each other, because we only care about the bad in one another.
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