George Orwell A Hanging

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Examine Your Response: A Hanging George Orwell's “A Hanging”, was originally published in 1931 in The Adelphi, a British magazine. Aimed toward highly educated, politically aware people in England, Orwell's narrative essay questions the morality of British Imperialism by describing an execution he witnessed in Burma, while serving in the British Imperial Police. Orwell's humanization of the criminal and horror over the events he witnessed clearly show his implied thesis concerning the value of human life and the tragedy inherent to a system that dismisses it so casually. The essay was written to show those benefiting from an imperialist society a perspective they may not have considered and perhaps leave them questioning the system overall. …show more content…
While he is sparing in overtly stating his own emotions, he uses dialogue, descriptions, and the reactions of those around him to create a tense, dismal tone. He describes the prisoner as “a puny wisp of a man” with “vague liquid eyes” and a “moustache, absurdly too big for his body” (Orwell), showcasing him as a human being, not just some criminal in a far off land we've never visited. Upon our introduction to the prisoner, we get a sense that he is resigned and has accepted his fate, yet as we walk with him, he still reacts like a human who does not want to die, doing things like side stepping a puddle or calling to his god just before death. Near the end, after he has been killed, we learn that when he found out his appeal had been denied “he pissed on the floor of his cell” (Orwell). He was afraid, just as most people would be. The account of the dog is another powerful image Orwell presents to us. It further highlights that the prisoner is a person, not just some criminal, and that as a person, he was loved, at the very least by his dog. Orwell's characterization of the dog as timorous upon finding the prisoner dead was unsettling, as if the dog had a stronger sense of morality than the people supporting …show more content…
Orwell succeeds extremely well in portraying the prisoner as a human being, rather than just a faceless criminal. I'm sure similar executions were a daily occurrence at that time, but by showing this man as a person, Orwell makes it difficult to want to see him die, thus making a strong case against capital punishment. I also think ethos factors in, as George Orwell was a respected, well know author. I enjoyed the piece regardless, but for someone living at the time, that name may have carried more weight than an unknown one. That difference may have been enough to sway someone's mind or even entice them into reading in the first place. I do feel we're led to the logical conclusion that the hanging was intrinsically wrong, however, the logos is implied, rather than outright stated. Overall, I find this essay chilling, no matter how many times I read it and I believe it had the effect he

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