A Hanging The short story “A Hanging” by George Orwell
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A Hanging The short story, A Hanging by George Orwell, poses many problematic and significant questions. Of these questions the one that intrigued me the most was, how does the narrators emotions and feelings change throughout the story, and how does this change affect the theme of the story These questions are significant in general because they are very important to the theme and major conflict of the story. These questions are also important to the story specifically, because it shows how the narrator develops as a character and how this change also affects the theme of the story.
I feel that the narrators emotions change from the beginning of the story to the end in many aspects. In the beginning of the story the narrator is very professional and wants to perform his job to the best of his abilities. Evidence of this is found in the story, where he talks about how he and the other magistrates followed behind the prisoner and descries it as a procession (pg 439). This gives it a very professional tone. Also, when the narrator discusses the dog coming out of nowhere and ran around them, he says a dreadful thing happened (pg 439). He says this as if the dog is a problem because it distracts the guards from being able to do their job. Furthermore, in the beginning the narrator describes the prisoner in a very methodical manner, just describing him factually showing no feeling whatsoever towards the prisoner this adds to the narrator being portrayed as professional.
The narrator changes throughout the story immensely, he becomes more and more guilty and compassionate towards the prisoner as the story goes on. He begins to change as soon as the prisoner stepped carefully around the puddle on the ground (pg 440). Once this occurs, the narrator begins to include some of his feelings and thoughts, which he previously didnt include because he was very professional and didnt include his emotions and feelings. After, the prisoner steps carefully around the puddle the narrator says, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting life short when it is in full tide (pg 440). This is the first hint of the narrator showing that he is compassionate to the prisoner and demonstrates how the narrator doesnt agree with the job he has to do.
This also marks the first time in the story that the language changes when the narrator says that it is wrong, it is the first moral question and language that arises in the story. The narrator goes on to say that with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone-one mind less, one world less (pg 440) this implies that he is empathetic towards the prisoner and that he is torn emotionally between the job he has to do and how he feels about it. This is a dramatic change from the narrators previous feelings or lack there of towards the prisoner because he now shows that he has a heart and became compassionate towards the prisoner, this is a day and night difference from how he originally felt and showed in the beginning of the story.
These changes in the narrators emotions and feelings have a big affect on the theme because the narrators change is basically one of the main themes of the story. It shows the narrators development as a character. And it is a major tool that author uses to get his underlying message across, that the death penalty is wrong because even the guards are against executing these prisoners.
Other people reading this story may say that the narrator goes from questioning himself in the beginning to joining the group at the end. Evidence of this intense conflict in the story is when the narrator questions himself as he talks about the unspeakable wrongness of cutting life short (pg 440). Then he joins the group in the end when he has a drink and laughs with all the other guards (pg 441). Another opinion that might be raised regarding this story is that the narrator emotions change with all the other characters emotions. The evidence for this in the story is evident when the narrator laughs with all the other guards at the end of the story (pg 441). This is because his emotions change along with the other guards since they all laugh together to cover their real emotions that they dont want to show to their fellow co-workers.
Although some people have these different opinions, I still believe that my opinion is more valid because the narrators emotions and feelings do change from indifferent at the beginning of the story to caring and compassionate toward the prisoner at the end. Also, I feel that the opinion that says the narrator went from questioning himself to joining the group is partially valid, but although the narrator joins the group in the end he has changed greatly from the beginning and has changed as a character. Also, I feel that the opinion that says the narrators emotions change with the other characters emotions is less valid because the other guards emotions do not change nearly as much as the narrators do, and they show far less emotions towards the prisoner too. This is irrefutable and there is adequate textual evidence from the story to back up my opinion. Also, I think that my opinion is the most legitimate because although it includes inferences, they are backed by evidence from the story and the narrators context.
In conclusion, I feel that the narrators emotions and feelings change throughout the story, from being indifferent in the beginning to being caring and compassionate towards the prisoner in the end of the story. He changes from being an employee with no reservations about his job to a person who has serious issues with what he does for a living. Also, I feel that this change is one of the main themes in the story and Orwell uses this change to force his underlying message to the reader, that the death penalty is wrong.