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A Hanging

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In "A Hanging", Orwell has a sudden epiphany: the prisoner that he is escorting is going to die. He feels that it is wrong, even if the prisoner was sentenced to death. With Orwell's phrasing he reminds us that the prisoner is fully functional, his "feet printed themselves on the wet gravel", "muscles slid neatly into place", and a "lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down", but when he saw the prisoner avoid a puddle, just minutes before he was going to die he realized how wrong it is to "cut a life short, while it is in full tide." He compares the man to himself and the rest of the guards, "he and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling and understanding the same world". But soon one of them will be gone "one mind less, one world less."

The prisoner was described as "a puny wisp of a man." What harm could a person like that do to others? Yet it took 6 men to guard him and prepare him for his death. The tiny man did not resist, he just stood there as though he accepted his fate. The images Orwell puts into our imaginations are an intense reminder of what is going on in the story. For example, the first line of the story itself is very illustrated: "I 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." With that line you have a very solemn image, instantly a grave mood is presented.

Orwell's choice of irony forces us to analyze what really is going on. Orwell does not realize "the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short while it is in full tide." Until he witnesses his prisoner, a man awaiting his death in a few moments, step around a puddle to avoid the discomfort. Orwell then sees that the "man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive." Orwell notes how his body and immune system were functioning, "his nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with one-tenth of a second to live." The prisoner's organs were working but "toiling away in solemn foolery" as though there is no point for the prisoner to still be breathing, thinking, and digesting. One person has an effect on the world, each person could be thought of as a world in itself, the guards and prisoner were "understanding the same world; and in 2 minutes, with a sudden snap, one of them would be gone--One mind less, one world less".

Before the prisoner is hung, Orwell introduces us to



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