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George Orwell's "A Hanging"

In “A Hanging”, George Orwell employs imagery and symbolism to convey the mistreatment of the Burmese prisoners and the value Orwell finds in life which he realizes when witnessing the execution of a Burmese prisoner.
by

Isabella Prio

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of George Orwell's "A Hanging"

"A Hanging" George Orwell In “A Hanging”, George Orwell employs imagery and symbolism to convey the mistreatment of the Burmese prisoners and the value Orwell finds in life which he realizes when witnessing the execution of one of the prisoners. "It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard." "It was about forty yards to the gallows. I watched the bare brown back of the prisoner marching in front of me. He walked clumsily with his bound arms, but quite steadily, with that bobbing gait of the Indian who never straighten his knees. At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel." "We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water." "A dreadful thing had happened- a dog, come goodness knows whence, had appeared in the yard."
"For a moment it pranced round us, and then, before anyone could stop it, it had made a dash for the prisoner, and jumping up tried to lick his face. Everyone stood aghast, too taken aback even to grab at the dog." "It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. 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. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive."
"He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone- one mind less, one world less." "All the organs of his body were working- bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming- all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the gray walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned- reasoned even about puddles." "It was a high, reiterated cry of "Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!," not urgent and fearful like a prayer or a cry for help, but steady, rhythmical, almost, like the tolling of a bell."
"The hangman, still standing on the gallows, produced a small cotton bag like a flour bag and drew it down over the prisoner's face, But the sound, muffled by the cloth, still persisted, over and over again: "Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!"
"The steady, muffled crying from the prisoner went on and on, "Ram! Ram! Ram!" never faltering for an instant." "I found that I was laughing quite loudly. Everyone was laughing. Even the superintendent grinned in a tolerant way." Imagery Symbolism works cited Orwell, George. “A Hanging”. The Complete Works of George Orwell. Georgeorwell.org, 2003. Web. 4 November 2012. thank you for listening!
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