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Napat Parapat (NAM) 5761059

Against Nature: Human Immorality in A Hanging


The short story A Hanging by George Orwell is a wake-up call to show the
inhumane and racist treatment prisoners sometimes undergo. It was initially published in
1931. This story took place in Burma and it describes the situation in which Orwell had a
chance to witness an execution of the prisoner. He mainly focuses on one Hindu man and his
journey walking from his cells to the gallows. However, the narrator does not reveal the
mans crime to the reader. The reader does not know what did the man do wrong? Does he
have family or child that are waiting for him to be back? The reason is because he wants to
convince the reader that execution is the crime against nature, and it is not on the humans
morality to do that even the mans punishment fits his crime. In this short story, Orwell
explores morality through the use of mood, characterization, symbolism, and literary devices.
Orwell depicts irony mood about the condemned mans emotion and the jailors
emotion toward the execution. The difference between the jailors idea and the condemned
mans idea about capital punishment are directly shown toward the story. The condemned
man who is about to be hung acts very normal and calm as the narrator states that When I
saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable
wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. (p. 1). The condemned man still has
a capability of avoiding a puddle which shows that he does not feel panic or anxious about
his upcoming death. Even he has guards surrounded him, he can step a side the puddle
otherwise he will get wet. Additionally, he still has an instinct to avoid the puddle and does
not think like life is ended. On the contrary, the jailor who witnesses the execution says oh,
kill him quickly, get it over, stop that abominable noise! (p. 2). This shows the jailors
feeling that he is fear and anxious about the death of the condemned man. Orwell shows the
opposite that instead of the condemned man should be afraid of death but the jailor is afraid

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about it instead. On the other hand, the condemned man is calm and gradually die. Lastly, the
use of irony is effective in the way to show the jailors feeling and the Hindu mans feeling
about death are totally different. The man is calm even though he is going to die while the
jailor is nervous about the execution.
Published a lot of good short stories, Orwell refers to the immoral characterization of
superintendent to emphasize his action toward the prisoner. The narrator presents the
character of superintendent that The superintendent of the jail, who was standing apart from
the rest of us, moodily prodding the gravel with his stick, raised his head at the sound (p. 1).
His action can be interpreted that he is a leader and he has power in this jail. He also has his
own ego by not assembling with other jailors. He is just standing and prodding the gravel
with his stick, this seems that he is bored on his life and works on this is just for the job.
After the prison is hung, the superintendent said Eight minutes past eight. Well, thats all for
this morning, thank God. (p. 2); it indicates how the superintendent feels toward his work
and he just wants to complete as quick as possible and move to other responsibilities. He
never cares about the prisoners life and treats him badly. In the last paragraph, the
superintendent invites the narrator to have a drink together, both of them walk to the car and
laugh as the narrator states that At that moment Franciss anecdote seemed extraordinarily
funny, we all had a drink together, native and European alike, quite amicably. The dead man
was a hundred yards away (p. 3). The superintendents mind can be analyzed as an animal
mind because he does not recognize the value of human life. He can be happy and party while
the dead man was a hundred yards away. Finally, characterization is used by the author in
order to emphasize the superintendent that his feeling toward the condemned man is not only
inhumane but also against the human morality.
As the story continues, the appearance of a dog is the meaningful scene which
presents the narrators point of view. In this story, it can be implied that the dog represents the

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narrators conscience. At the beginning of the story, when the condemned man was taken out
from jail and was walking to the gallows, the dog runs up to him and tries to lick his face as
the narrator describes: it had made a dash for the prisoner, and jumping up tried to lick his
face (p. 1). This action of acceptance shows how the dog does not know the mans crime that
he is sentenced to death penalty. The dogs acceptance mirrors the narrators thought toward
the condemned man that he is his friend as a human in the world, and it is not right to take
away other peoples life before time. Moreover, when the condemned man is being executed,
the narrator states The prisoner had vanished and the rope was twisting on itself. I let go of
the dog (p. 2). As he lets go off the dog, it does not mean that he lets the real dog goes, but it
can be interpreted that the narrator lets his conscience goes after witnessed the execution.
Another scene which the dog can represent narrators conscience is after the death of Hindu
man, the dog is running to the dead man and when it got there it stopped short, barked, and
then retreated into a corner of the yard (p. 2). The dogs behavior was shock and fear which
also expresses the narrators feeling that even he is fear but he cannot help the man to avoid
the execution. However, dog as a symbol used by the Orwell can give a deep meaning to the
story which acts as a bridge to connect the theme and the story.
Equally important, the story would not be completed if Orwell did not describe about
rhetorical technique of similes to compare the prisoner with an animal. In the beginning of
the story, he narrates the environment where the prisoners live. The cells that prisoners live
like small animal cages (p. 1) which is one of the example to show that all the prisoners
who are waiting for death will live here in this small animal cages. All the prisoners are
treated inhumanely as the narrator notes on page1 passed a chain through his handcuffs and
fixed it to their belts, and lashed his arms tight to his sides (p. 1), the jailors handcuff the
prisoners comparing them with animals which will be lost in the field if they do not pay
attention on them. In addition, the inhumanity toward the prisoner is shown in the way the

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prisoners are compared as a fish. On page 1, It was like men handling a fish which is still
alive and may jump back into the water., the narrator mirrors the action of fish after they are
caught out from the water with prisoners. This literary device is a contrast to show the nature
of prisoners. Orwells description shows that the jailors seem not worthy to care for the man
and compare all the prisoners as an animal.
All the ideas in A Hanging by Orwell relates to the theme of morality which
understandable mood, significant characterization, relevant symbolism, and meaningful
similes are some techniques that the narrator uses to enhance the theme of morality. First, the
irony mood describes the opposite feeling of the superintendent and the Hindu man. Second,
characterization of the superintendent expresses in the inhumane way. Third, dog as a symbol
is interpreted as the narrators conscience toward the execution. Last, simile is used to show
the comparison between the prisoner and animal. However, in the human world, it is not right
to take away other people or treat human like an animal. Finally, good becomes bad, peace
turns into violence and capital punishment makes the end of many lives.