George Orwell Questions and Answers

George Orwell book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the thesis of "A Hanging" by George Orwell?

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,273 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

George Orwell's thesis in "A Hanging" can be put in his own words:

I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide.

It can also be paraphrased slightly more succinctly and precisely:

Capital punishment is an evil and grisly business.

Or somewhat less succinctly but more comprehensively:

Capital punishment is an evil and grisly business and everyone involved in it knows and feels its wrongness.

Orwell juxtaposes the squalid physical details of captivity and the preparations for the execution with his own sudden realization, occasioned by the condemned man stepping aside to avoid a puddle, of the wickedness of permanently destroying the consciousness of a healthy man, leaving, in the space of a few minutes "one mind less, one world less."

The way in which those involved in the hanging feel the wrongness of their task and the falseness of their position is emphasized throughout the essay by the uneasy manner in which they act and communicate, then by...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 958 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write2,306 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,269 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial