A Hanging Critical Analysis, Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2022-05-22
A Hanging Critical Analysis, Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  English literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1102 words
10 min read

"A Hanging" is an account that talks on the putting to death of a captive. The setting is in Burma- South East Asian nation which shares its borders with India. These events take place during the 1920's when the author was stationed in Burma to serve the Indian Imperial Police. He narrates the account of the execution of a male Hindu, a situation that reports on the aspects of human suffering and injustice. The writer recounts the elements of war and injustice and uses appropriate techniques such as imagery, the irony of apathy and physical description to vividly communicate his message.

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The author uses imagery to demonstrate unfavorable brutal circumstances of the fated prisoner. Through this way, he brings out the evil nature of injustice. These stimulate feelings of pity for his troubles. The author sets the plot for the story by beginning with weather descriptions. He says- "a sodden morning of the rains" and "sickly light, like yellow tinfoil." This imagery creates a dull mood that dominates the entire account. Pathetic imagery also adds a threatening atmosphere which forms a dull and harsh mood. These moods represent the dejected conditions of the prisoner. Also, the author also puts much emphasis on how brutal execution by hanging was by displaying the prison masked in desolate and gloomy sentiments. As a result of this, the brutality of the killing comes out clearly. The suggestion is that the author is unhappy with aspects of injustice through the inhumane treatment.

Orwell uses physical description to depict the evil nature of injustice which dehumanizes the prisoner. These points out the horrible wrong that people are talking. Ideally, it is very wrong and against human rights to take the life of someone. Everyone has the right to live. He describes the detainee as "puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes" which "yielded his arms limply to the ropes as though he hardly noticed what was happening." The author portrays the prisoner as an individual who is very weak and unthreatening character, which emphasizes on the benevolent face of the captive. On the other hand, the precise description which contrasts the weak prisoner with cruel handling fuels more humanity into the prisoner. The reader dislike of injustice rises to the peak when he comes to realize that the prisoner was also a man with all the senses. This man also feels pain, sees, hears and has an understanding of the same world. He also insists that the prisoner is the same human being as all of us and therefore advocates for equality in the treatment of humanity about justice.

Similarly, the author also uses irony to explain the concept of injustice. Through this, he criticizes the attitude aligned to the capital punishment and also rebukes the vicious reality that accompanies passing away by hanging. The superintendent says that the prisoner is alright after performing the execution. This clearly illustrates that people are heartless and unsympathetic when it comes to passing away. An irony here is that the deceased is "alright." It means that the people do not show any feelings of sympathy for the hanged man. This situation represents the ironical disinterest to the execution. Irony also appears in the final paragraph of the story when " the dead man is buried a hundred yards away." The author contrasts existence and death in this scenario. He uses irony here to show the difference between liveliness and death. He goes ahead to suggest how people can quickly forget the hanging and distances themselves from it. This irony, therefore, helps the author to portray the dark side of wars and injustice. He purposefully highlights the wickedness of an unjust system and strongly criticizes it.

Similarly, the author also uses irony intentionally to delay the hanging. He, therefore, makes the reader develop more sympathy, for the prisoner and would want to help in a way. In this way, the reader contemplates on the views regarding injustice. The irony is evident in the dog incident when the dog befriends the prisoner. The dog wanted to lick the prisoner's face draws the reader carefully to the prisoner and would want to make friends with this prisoner due to pity. There is a general belief that dogs have extraordinary ability to identify friendly and unfriendly humans. Because of this, the dog is aware that the guards are malicious people and the vulnerable prisoner is friendly. It attempts to comfort this prisoner.

Also, the conditions to which the prisoners were subjected to live in the cells were not conducive. An unjust society is with no equal treatment of people. The prisoners do not enjoy a human treatment from the correctional officers as the author puts it. The animals are given the same treatment just like the prisoners. A pointer to this is the way the author describes the conditions of the cells. He asserts, "We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds, fronted with double bars, like small animal cages." The picture drawn here is of a filthy cell, not conducive that is not for human health.

Orwell goes ahead to provoke emotions of the reader when he portrays cruelty at the peak of the story. The guards of the prison are very harsh and cruel. They are also cold-hearted. It is evident from the statement, " ...cannot get their breakfast till this job is over." The job referred to is the execution through hanging of the Indian man. It is very unjust to refer to the killing of a fellow human being as a 'job.' These statements evoke a lot of sympathy in the reader for the man waiting for an impending execution. The selection of the words "ought to have been dead" triggers disturbing thoughts in the reader. The reader learns that the life of the prisoner was of little or no value to the heartless correctional officers. This hanging is therefore very provocative in the manner that the correctional officers brutally treated the prisoners.

In conclusion, "A Hanging" by George Orwell is, therefore, a fascinating non-fiction text. Orwell can be said to have successfully portrayed his characters to ignite emotional reactions to the reader. The topic of injustice and inhumane also comes out clearly as the events unfold in the story. Similarly, the author efficiently applies the use of stylistic devices such as irony, imagery, physical description among other styles not captured in this essay. These devices also bring out the topic of war and injustice very clearly. The author, therefore, speaks plainly about forms of human injustices, a problem that dominates the story.

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