George Orwell

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What is the main idea of George Orwell's essay "A Hanging"?

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Jessica Scott Romano eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I am sure that there are many different ways to interpret George Orwell's essay, "A Hanging." For me, though, the main idea is the surreality of seeing someone die and knowing that you are a part of it.

At the beginning of the essay, Orwell seems to be observing the whole process from a distance. He describes how the prisoners and the warders looked and what they said to each other, but he doesn't tell us what his own thoughts are. The fact that a man is about to die doesn't seem to feel real to him.

It isn't until the dog appears that we start to feel a shift in the essay. The dog has no clue what is going on; he doesn't know that the men are all taking another man off to the gallows to kill him. He is just happy to see everyone and is jumping all over them, as dogs do. Everyone is at a loss about what to do with the dog at first, partially because it seems too strange to have such a normal thing happening in such an abnormal scene, but then they manage to catch him and Orwell keeps him off...

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