AHANGING by George Orwell: Commentary

Essay by tessacwHigh School, 11th gradeB, April 2008

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

Orwell’s work ‘A Hanging’ presents a variety of themes and issues which arouse mixed emotions in the reader. The scene, which takes place in Burma, is initially set as a somewhat dreary picture of a bleak, cold “sodden morning of rains.” An atmosphere of lost hope, a sort of helplessness & despair, is created through his depiction of the jail cells along with those contained in them.

The off-handed, matter of fact attitudes shown by the hangman, jailer, warders, magistrates & remaining procession seem highly inappropriate for the situation at hand, where in a prisoner faces death by hanging. From this we gather the execution to be a rather routine process, which the individuals involved have gradually become de-sensitized to. In contrast, the seriousness of the situation is also revealed upon the interruption of the expected sequence of events when a barking dog approaches, attempting to jump up & lick the prisoner’s face.

Orwell emphasizes, perhaps even exaggerates, how “dreadful” this occurrence was.

One paradox, which is presented during this unusual situation, is of the prisoner’s to non resistive state, succumbing to the warder’s wishes and cooperating completely, contrary with the dog, disrupting the procession and proving quite difficult to control for the warders. The significance of this allows entry for Orwell to introduce his beliefs on the wrongness of capital punishment. The realization of these beliefs surface quite suddenly, as Orwell observes the simple action carried out by the prisoner of stepping to the side to avoid a puddle on the path. Interestingly enough, it was this small action which provoked intricate and emotional thoughts on Orwell’s part. Recognizing the significance of human life and its complicated functions, he speaks of the “unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide.” The tragedy of...