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Published: 08-12-2019

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An Evaluation of George Orwell’s Writing in A Hanging

The disregard for all ethical expectations of humanity can be a outcome of the stress to execute one’s job regardless of the consequences for those in one’s vicinity. This was often the case in Europe in the course of the 1900s when the death sentence was nonetheless a frequent type of punishment. This decay of moral judgement and desensitization to the killing of other human beings is epitomized in George Orwell’s essay, “A Hanging”, which revolves around his time spent enforcing capital punishment in Burma under British rule. Orwell contends that the implementation of capital punishment causes these working for the justice technique to stray from humanity and moral values by dehumanizing fellow citizens. Due to his private encounter with this situation, Orwell conveys his opinion on these deleterious effects of capital punishment by means of his efficient use of contrast, irony and symbolism.

Orwell illustrates how capital punishment can result in those executing it to deviate from ethical and moral behaviour by way of his use of contrast particularly amongst the prisoners and the guards’ physical look and living requirements. Firstly, Orwell’s comparison of the prisoners’ cells to “small animal cages”, which contained nothing at all but “a plank for a bed and a pot of drinking water”, illustrates the dehumanization of the convicts and the deplorable living circumstances they endured. Furthermore, the “puny wisp of a man” who was to be killed juxtaposed to the “fat Dravidian in a white drill suit” exemplifies the superiority of the guards more than the prisoners and the drastic disparity in living conditions. The discernible differences among the imperious guards and the docile prisoners are ironic considering that some of the guards are of the very same ethnicity as those they are executing. Furthermore, the contrast amongst Orwell’s belief about the “wrongness, of cutting a life short” and wanting to “kill him rapidly [and] get it over” with, conveys how the guards’ occupation necessary them to suppress their moral values. In addition, the solemn atmosphere and guilty tone just before the prisoner’s death where the guards had “gone grey like negative coffee” contrasted with the breakfast, where “everyone [was] chattering gaily”, clearly portrays how the execution of capital punishment desensitizes these working below the government to the killing of fellow citizens. Orwell’s comprehensive use of contrast presents his criticism on capital punishment and the deleterious effects it has on these working for it.

In addition, the use of irony all through the essay enables Orwell to demonstrate how these operating for capital punishment suppress their moral values and sense of compassion. Very first, the irony of the prisoner stepping “aside to stay away from a puddle”, despite the fact that he was approaching his death, reminds the narrator that he was “alive, just as [everyone else was] alive”. Orwell’s incorporation of this action is essential as it triggered the narrator’s compassionate and moral side, that had been inconspicuous prior to this moment. Subsequently, it demonstrates how the guards were usually really oblivious to what they have been undertaking because it had developed into an insipid routine. Furthermore, right after the execution, the superintendent poked the body and declared him “all right” in spite of the fact that he was dead and hence the opposite of all correct. This ironic statement demonstrates how the lives of the prisoners became obsolete to these enforcing capital punishment, due to the fact their job numbed them to the killing of other humans. In addition, the guards all laughed at a recollection of a time ahead of a prisoner’s execution exactly where they had told him to “think of all the discomfort and trouble [he was] causing [them]”, which is utterly ironic given that they had been escorting him to his death. This callous statement and the apathetic response border on cynicism, furthering the notion that these executing the death sentence grow to be oblivious to the significance and severity of their jobs. Furthermore, the reality that the dog “whine[d]” throughout the prisoner’s repeated cries and acted much more compassionately and humane than the humans, who acted indifferent and merely wanted to total their assignment, is ironic and blatantly conveys Orwell’s criticism on the impact capital punishment has on these implementing it. Orwell’s pervasive use of irony is essential in expressing his opposition to capital punishment, since it obliterates humaneness from those enforcing it.

In addition, Orwell’s integration of symbolism exposes how external influences influence one’s actions and beliefs, and in this case desensitize one to the killing of other individuals. One particular of the principal symbols in this essay is the stray dog that appears on the march to the gallows. The dog is a mix breed of a Pariah, which is a free of charge Burmese dog, and an Argail, which is a British colonial dog, and thus represents the guards, many of whom are originally Indian but have been tremendously influenced by the British. In addition, the dog symbolizes the guards’ consciousness and sympathy, as it “whine[d]” harmoniously with the prisoner’s cries, and “[looked] timorously out at [the guards]” soon after they killed one more human. Even so, since the dog also symbolises innocence and purity, but ended up “[slipping] after [the guards]” when the killing was over, it demonstrates how those implementing capital punishment have steadily been desensitized to the killings and are compelled to comply with orders. Furthermore, the dog was filled “with glee” and “jump[ed] up [trying] to lick [the prisoner’s] face” conveying how all humans are equal and must be treated as such. Furthermore, the “sickly light, like yellow tinfoil” that shined into the jail yard symbolises how inhumane and ‘sick’ the happenings in the prison have been. Orwell reiterates how beneath the appearance each the prisoners and guards are human and equal through his use of symbolism of the guard’s “black hand” and the prisoners’ “brown backs”. Orwell’s symbolism is essential in understanding how capital punishment can have detrimental effects on society, particularly for those enforcing it.

Orwell clearly portrays the corrupting effects of capital punishment on the minds of those executing it as well as these it physically victimises. Consequently, he indicates how this brutal and inhumane prosecution program can numb individuals to killings of fellow citizens. Equivalent to Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”, those operating for the imperialists feel pressured to execute their job the way they are expected, regardless of their moral judgement or what the consequences of their actions are. Furthermore, a justice technique that provides some individuals immense power more than other folks not only harms the minds and perceptions of these involved, but also segregates a society. As a liberal socialist, Orwell believes in the equality of all citizens, and therefore denounces capital punishment for the damaging psychological effects on these involved in the method.
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