Novelist, Journalist and critic, Eric Arthur Blair, further known as George Orwell. In his short essay” A Hanging”, conveys a persecution by hanging in Burma. The narrative illustrates Orwell’s perception of capital punishment by using contrast, repetition and also implicitly representing a critical view of British Imperial rule in Burma to strengthen Orwell’s key message – capital punishment is wrong.
Orwell begins with his short story by depicting a grim and depressing prison run by British officials. The author personifies the light to create a sombre mood and he uses the simile “like yellow tinfoil” which is a connotations of the prisoner’s health, as the author utilizes the colour yellow, to suggest that only urine and vomit resided with this environment.
Orwell uses an animalistic theme when describing the conditions of the prisoners to imply to the fact that they are kept in unrealistic and inhumane conditions, with total disregard to their health. Orwell highlights the way in which the British treated the Burmese and the separation of classes within society at that time period by using “like small animal cages”. These conditions create sympathy, and are first of many indications of the prisoners being compared to animals. “Condemned” has a gloomy tone which conveys that their fates are sealed- also seems to have a harsher tone than guilt – guilty would make the punishment morally justified. The dehumanization of these prisoners allows the officials to carry out their duties unburdened by guilt.
The phrase wisp of a man illustrates tat he now merely a shadow of what he used to be. The level of the prisoner’s malnourishment is very concerning and is an indication of his fragile condition. Additionally the phrase “vague liquid eyes” portray his vulnerability and that his sense life has been drained from him. The use of liquid also suggests that he has become emotionally detached from this world and his body.
The author compares the prison to a fish that may “jump back to the water”, however the prison appears to be unfazed at to what is taking place, as he has surrendered to his fate, incapable of changing what is to come. The author uses guilt in order to gain the readers sympathy towards the Burmese.
We see the use of irony displayed within the character of the doctor. As a doctor takes an oath to protect the lives of others, however the superintendent appears to be the one who will execute and take away the life of a man superintendent appears to be the one who will execute and take away the life of a man with a functioning body. However his rushed tone indicates that killing a person goes against his moral conduct and therefore he wants to quickly be done with the matter at hand.
Throughout the evolution of the essay Orwell’s innovative description becomes more conspicuous as Orwell has a realization that ending another one’s life is wrong. During this part Orwell introduces a dog into the story. The dog creates drama and builds tension. It is a symbolized to represent the wider issues of the text- the Burmese people and their treatment by the British. The dog acknowledges the prisoner’s equality and humanity. It added life to the hanging and made the wardens realize what they are about to do. The dog symbolizes Orwell’s thoughts and when the dog left it symbolized that Orwell had let go of the scenario.
Orwell’s message is cleverly conveyed towards the end of the narrative he uses many different techniques –anaphora, similes etc. His repetition of these literary techniques is what convinced the readers and created sympathy towards Orwell’s main point.
A bizarre simile is used to convey the aftermath of the hanging; it shows the discomfort the guards were feeling. Orwell says that everybody who was involved in the killing was a victim; this further emphasizes how murder doesn’t sit comfortably in the human conscience.
The horrific event that they have all witnessed causes these men (soldiers and wardens) to tremble with fear. This is the moment when they have no right to decide who lives and who dies and also when they realize it could have been them in the gallows.
Throughout the ending of the essay Orwell shows how after the horrific event, everyone laughed and drank. Even though he has laughed with them he has not disregarded the event. The sentence structure used created impact- juxtaposition- jovial scene of men drinking is in stark contrast to the dead man- emphasizes Orwell’s disgust in the officials and himself. The reader is left contemplating this vulgar scene.
In conclusion,” A Hanging” is a short essay written by George Orwell, conveying a persecution in Burma. The narrative illustrates Orwell’s perception of capital punishment by using contrast, repetition and also implicitly representing a critical view of British imperial rule in Burma to strengthen Orwell’s key message – Capital punishment is wrong.