A Hanging

This study guide will help you analyse the text “A Hanging” by George Orwell. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “A Hanging”
Author: George Orwell
Published in: The Adelphi (magazine)
Date of Publication: 1931
Genre: Short Story

George Orwell is the pen name of British writer Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950). Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the novella Animal Farm (1945). His writings focus on social injustices and have often been described as lucid prose. “A Hanging” has often been interpreted as an essay, although George Orwell claimed it was “just a story”.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

The narrator is about to witness an execution by hanging in Burma. A convoy of people which includes the prisoner, warders, the head jailer, the superintendent, and magistrates, heads towards the gallows where the hanging is to take place. On the way, a dog comes into the area and starts barking at the convoy, but he is eventually caught and leashed. Shortly after this, the narrator has a sudden realisation of what it means to take someone’s life.

At the hanging site, the prisoner cries to his god until he is hanged. After the superintendent checks that the man is dead, the convoy returns to the prison. The remaining inmates are served breakfast, and people begin to chat, to laugh, and to tell stories. Francis, the head jailer, shares a story about a man who had to be pulled by his legs out of his cell to be executed.

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A Hanging

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