“A Hanging” Essay by George Orwell Essay

August 31, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 30th, 2021

George Orwell’s works are a vivid example of acute social dystopia and pressing problems associated with interaction among people. Many of his major works became great literary masterpieces, but in addition to novels, the author also wrote small essays, where he also raised topical issues. As an object of analysis, his work “A Hanging” in the genre of a first-person narrative short story will be considered. When an employee of the British Imperial Police in the 1920s, Orwell witnessed many controversial and even frightening events and incidents, and one of them formed the basis of this essay. Undisguised tension and hyperrealism are the characteristic features of “A Hanging,” and the author’s inner experiences, along with his emotional assessment of what happens, allow conveying a wide range of feelings that affect the reader.

Features of Writing

One of the remarkable features of this work is the style of presentation. Orwell (2000) resorts to a first-person narrative technique, which allows readers to immerse themselves in the story as deeply as possible and evaluate it through the eyes of the author himself. Many sentences are short and non-exhaustive to create additional intrigue and increase tension. Orwell (2000) resorts to various literary techniques, in particular, comparisons and subtexts, to emphasize some ideas. For instance, the author constantly compares the weather of that day with various everyday aspects in order to describe the situation in detail (Orwell, 2000).

The dog that appears on the path of the procession ​​may be the personification of a thirst for life, which the prisoner does not show but keeps in himself (Orwell, 2000). All these techniques help to better reflect the tension of the situation and convey the observer’s emotions.

The emphasis on details is an additional tool that allows focusing readers’ attention on specific nuances of the narrative. The position of the prisoner’s hands, the location of the guards, the executioner’s appearance, and other unique elements of the story that Orwell (2000) presents help create an atmosphere of immersion. As a result, despite a small volume of this essay, the narrative is detailed and covers a short time period with the greatest possible accuracy.

Orwell’s Attitude

When evaluating the author’s attitude to the story, readers may notice how ambiguous the narrator’s feelings are. He does not hide anxiety, and when the prisoner who is constantly repeating the name of his God is brought to the gallows, a climax sets in, and the emotions of Orwell (2000) are sharpened. It is felt in the narrative that he takes part in this entire procedure reluctantly and has no choice but to accompany the prisoner to the place of his execution. The remarks regarding convict’s stepping over a puddle in the yard prove that Orwell (2000) is concerned about the injustice of the world and the laws that take away a physically healthy person’s life. As a result, before the execution, mixed feelings of anxiety and hopelessness are traced in the author’s narrative.

After the execution, a radical change in the author’s mood reflects his relief and desire to forget about the tense situation. Both Orwell (2000) and his colleagues laugh out loud and discuss extraneous topics, and this abrupt shift in the tone of the story indicates that the author does not want to recall recent events. Accordingly, one can note that any execution is a test for the narrator who is ready to forget this experience immediately.

Personal Reflection

“A Hanging” is one of the successful works written by Orwell (2000), and the brevity of this story cannot be considered a flaw. The author conveys a wide range of feelings and captivates readers with a tense plot, which, at the same time, reflects a short period of the prisoner’s transfer to the place of execution (Orwell, 2000). The applied literary techniques provide a clear picture of the situation and help understand the experiences that may accompany such a procedure.

Although there is no clearly defined introduction or conclusion in the work, the essay allows readers to understand the situation quickly, and additional details are not needed in order to feel the tension. The author’s attitude is obvious, and it is noticeable that Orwell (2000), who performs his duty, is not ready to accept the reality in which a person is deprived of life by force. Therefore, despite the fact that this essay does not apply to the dystopian genre, vivid details highlight social vices and reflect how controversial laws may be.


The story of “A Hanging” is a vivid example of Orwell’s work, and the realism of the essay makes it possible to feel the whole depth of emotions experienced by the author. The features of writing allow plunge into the atmosphere of the narrative and perceive all the events described as clearly as possible. The author’s attitude is also obvious because fear, misunderstanding, and subsequent relief are transmitted openly. This essay does not belong to the dystopian genre, but it also addresses acute social problems and raises the essential issues of human rights and freedoms.


Orwell, G. (2000). Essays. London, UK: Penguin Books.

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