"A Hanging" by George Orwell

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Higher Question – Choose an essay or a piece of journalism which has made an impact on you because of its effective style. Discuss how the writer’s style adds to the impact of the content.

“A Hanging” by George Orwell is an influential, autobiographical essay, in which the subject of capital punishment is powerfully examined. The essay is based on a prisoner’s execution in a Prisoner of War camp in Burma during the Second World War. In the essay, Orwell is a prison guard for the camp and carefully illustrates his views on capital punishment. The structure of the essay is of three distinct sections. These sections provide the reader with contrast and repetition, and are grounded in reality but with emphasis on the creative, strengthening Orwell’s key message – that capital punishment is wrong – and evoking sadness and a sense of depression within the reader at how utterly powerless Orwell is at changing the events that occur. Ingenious use of contrast and repetition permits the reader to see vividly that Orwell is deeply angered at the execution he is forced to witness, but he alone can do nothing to change the events, that due to an absurd political system, unfold and lead to the death of a man.

Orwell clearly sets out to engage us in the real in the opening of the essay, but to sustain this engagement must rely on synthesis of the creative description of the prison yard, which is of a passive, oppressive tone to introduce his theme that capital punishment is wrong and he alone cannot stop it. “a sodden morning of the rains”

This illustrates that Orwell feels depressed about his current situation, as “sodden” suggests something which is heavily soaked through with water, is heavily saturated and weighs a considerable amount – much like his heart, heavy with feeling and emotion. “a sickly light, like yellow tinfoil”

The simile in this example depicts his anxiety and uneasiness towards the inevitable hanging. “sickly” implies that Orwell feels...
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