"In the Penal Colony" presents a graphic depiction of human cruelty and conceptions of justice through Judeo-Christian references. The short story tells of an explorer who arrives at a penal colony to observe a punishment machine. An officer proudly explains how the machine uses sharp needles to slowly inscribe relevant commandments on the prisoners' bodies. The explorer says he finds the machine morally repugnant and the officer climbs into the machine himself. The words "Be Just" are inscribed on the officer's body and he is killed.