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An Academic Essay Relating to George Orwell's View of Capital Punishment

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The audience gets a glimpse into the hanging of a Burmese prisoner in George Orwell's personal essay "A Hanging." He employs techniques, such as the use of simile and imagery, which are effective in appealing to the emotions of the reader. By reaching out to the audience in such a way, Orwell is able to press upon them his negative attitude towards capital punishment.

In the beginning of the passage Orwell discusses the cells of the condemned, comparing them to "small animal cages" (99). The prisoners were truly treated as less than human. They were kept in cells ten feet by ten feet "which were quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot for drinking water" (99). Orwell continues to compare the way the Hindu prisoner is handled to that of a "fish that is still alive and may jump back into the water" (100). The guards keep a tight grip on the prisoner making sure he does not escape. Finally the authors discusses the "rhythmical" (101) sound "Ram!Ram!Ram!Ram!" (101) that the prisoner makes while standing on the gallows. Instead of comparing it to a "fearful prayer or cry for help" (101) Orwell compares it to the steady "tolling of a bell." (101). George Orwell uses several similes in order to show the way in which the soldiers and jail wardens would dehumanize 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." (99). Those are the first opening sentences written by Orwell. Throughout the entirety of his personal essay, Orwell uses imagery to project a picture and present the reader with a string of emotions. Often when I read a passage like the one above I find myself closing my eyes, trying to picture the scene in front of me. Sodden, or soaking, rains led me to picture a vision of despair. In this vision there is a slight sense of hope, the yellow light, barely creeping over the high walls of the prison. By bringing in further knowledge of World War II, the Asia-Pacific War, and Burma in the 1930's, I can better understand the world in which this essay is taking place. It was a brutal time period in which imperialist Japan was trying to conquer and colonize parts of Asia. Later in the essay, Orwell describes the gallows themselves, stating that they "stood tall in a small yard, separate from the main grounds of the prison, and overgrown with tall prickly weeds."(101). All of the imagery used by the author helps to portray a negative imagine, one of hopelessness and misery, of isolation and loneliness. Not only are the prisoners treated like animals, but their surrounds surround them with nothing but their own gloom.

The author George Orwell clearly states his opinion about capital punishment, not through reasoning and rationalization, but through emotion. It becomes obvious while reading the



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