A Hanging by George Orwell
The essay ‘ A Hanging’ by George Orwell describes an incident of hanging one prisoner. Orwell describes the event in his usual dramatic and ironic style. The essay is remarkable for the vivid characters that Orwell has portrayed. Like ‘Shooting an Elephant’, the incident of hanging takes place in Burma where he worked for some time. The essay comments on the unavoidability of and the submission to death.
The writer describes the event of hanging one prisoner in Burma. The prisoner was a Hindu, with shaven head, vague liquid eyes and a thick sprouting moustache. Though confronted with death, the prisoner was not bothered by the fear of death. He just neglected the warders who were taking him to the gallows. The warders were accompanied by an army doctor, a jailer, a superintendent. The doctor was in a hurry to take the prisoner to the gallows because till the job was not over, the prisoners couldn’t get their breakfast. As the procession proceeded further, a dreadful thing took place. One large woolly dog jumped on the prisoner. Everybody stood aghast because of the strange event. The angry superintendent ordered to catch the dog. The prisoner paid no attention even to this strange incident. When the dog was caught by someone, the procession resumed.
The prisoner walked quite steadily. The writer was stunned by the thought that after some moments this healthy, conscious man was going to die, who at that moment was alive just like all other people in the prison were alive. The writer, then, in an elaborate way describes how the prisoner was pushed to the gallows.
As the hangman fixed the rope round the prisoner’s neck, the final drama began. Even up to that moment the prisoner was behaving courageously. He started to cry out to the god, “Ram! Ram! Ram !” But it wasn’t urgent and fearful prayer. It was rather steady rhythmical, “almost like the tolling of bell”. The incessant call of Ram! Ram!” was making restless to everyone. That’s why the same thought was in everyone’s mind: “oh, kill him quickly, get it over, stop that abominable noise !”
Suddenly the superintendent gave an order and everything stopped. Everyone felt relieved from the unknown burden. The superintendent confirmed the death of the prisoner. The final moments of the prisoner’s hanging were so torturous that when he was dead, everyone started to laugh for no reason. The jailer told the superintendent that everything was okay because he had seen cases where the doctor had to confirm the death by pulling the prisoner’s legs. The courageous nature of the prisoner was also torn by the Eurasian boy who was walking beside the writer. He told the writer that when the prisoner heard his appeal had been dismissed and the death sentence was finalized, he pissed on the floor. Towards the end of the essay, all together enjoy a drink offered by the superintendent and burst into laughter recalling the anecdote told by the jailer.
Keys to check your progress.
1. (c), 2. (c), 3. (d),
4. (b), 5. (b)