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Summary of ‘A Hanging’ by George Orwell: General Overview

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A Hanging is a short essay written by George Orwell. Orwell starts the story with giving depressed descriptions about the atmosphere and the weather to set the tone for the rest of events following in the story. He uses his story to represent his opinions and thoughts about capital punishment. To portray his thoughts he uses the execution of a Hindu prisoner as an example. The essay could be thought of as a nostalgia of Burma.

He writes about how normal it is to take a healthy human and execute him, while other characters are busy thinking about how to go about their daily schedules. The execution of the Hindu man was on a rainy morning, Orwell describes that the man was brought out with heavy guard outside his cell. It is mentioned that the rest of the prison will not be able to receive breakfast until this man has been executed; therefore, people started complaining how slow the operation has been going. The execution process gets further delayed as a dog breaks into the yard and has to be chased away.

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Orwell states the strangeness of the scene of watching the man walk to his death, noting in particular that he stepped aside to avoid the puddle that was on his way, he noted that he “saw the mystery”. He muses on the idea of killing someone, causing a sudden switch from a human being in full health to becoming a corpse.

After the execution, Orwell describes the talk at the breakfast table. He states that he and the prison staff joke around while the body of the dead prisoner is hanging close to them. The man is dead; however, his crime was never mentioned in the story. The laughter of the prison staff/ officers in the story represents his own discontent with the fact that he took action in colonial violence. The attempted normality forced at the end is used as a veil to cover the fact that Orwell had the job to kill people. The normal life the characters go back to by laughing over breakfast is rapidly contrasted by the fact that there is a dead body hanging close to them.

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Summary of ‘A Hanging’ by George Orwell: General Overview. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/summary-of-a-hanging-by-george-orwell-general-overview/
“Summary of ‘A Hanging’ by George Orwell: General Overview.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/summary-of-a-hanging-by-george-orwell-general-overview/
Summary of ‘A Hanging’ by George Orwell: General Overview. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/summary-of-a-hanging-by-george-orwell-general-overview/> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
Summary of ‘A Hanging’ by George Orwell: General Overview [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/summary-of-a-hanging-by-george-orwell-general-overview/
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