Summary and structure

In what follows, you can read the summary of “A Hanging” by George Orwell and useful information about its structure.

Table of contents

Summary

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. The narrator and the others have whiskey and continue to laugh about Francis’ story.

Structure

The story is structured around a single event in the characters’ lives, the hanging of a Hindu prisoner in Burma. The story follows a traditional plot structure, with an exposition, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, and a resolution.

The text has often been interpreted as a semi-autobiographical essay because it is based on George Orwell’s experience in Burma, where he served in the British Imperial Police.

Title

The title of the story, “A Hanging”, is very explicit as to what the narrativ...

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