Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Last Judgment” is one of forty-eight short tales that apek wrote expressing his interest in crime fiction. Looking to the Bible and earlier, crime narratives have remained a popular and entertaining method for exploring the diverse capacities of human nature. apek’s interest in the genre may not be unique or innovative in itself, but his unabashed irreverence brings a refreshingly humorous flavor to the form.

The courts in apek’s Heaven are the same in appearance and protocol as those on Earth. This parody of judicial protocol works with very little actual exaggeration of the basic court system but merely by transposing the system into a sublime context; though exceptions, as is the wont of parody, do exist. Rather than stating a predetermined list of charges, the presiding judge asks Kugler what he considers himself to be guilty of, to which the defendant claims total innocence. The use of God as Kugler’s trial witness, in knowing more about the defendant than the defendant himself does, is apek’s method of pointing out the more natural predilection for believing in one’s guilt until proven innocent.

The portrayal of the system is basic enough as to be immediately recognizable in nearly any culture, during nearly any period of the twentieth century. Placing the panel of judges, human souls, in a position of authority causes them to appear bumbling and officious, even, and perhaps especially, during the story’s more...

(The entire section is 402 words.)