George Orwell: Essays

Decay of Moral Judgement in "A Hanging" by George Orwell 12th Grade

The disregard for all ethical expectations of humanity can be a result of the pressure to execute one’s job regardless of the consequences for those in one’s vicinity. This was often the case in Europe during the 1900s when the death sentence was still a frequent form of punishment. This decay of moral judgement and desensitization to the killing of other human beings is epitomized in George Orwell’s essay, “A Hanging”, which revolves around his time spent enforcing capital punishment in Burma under British rule. Orwell contends that the implementation of capital punishment causes those working for the justice system to stray from humanity and moral values by dehumanizing fellow citizens. Due to his personal experience with this issue, Orwell conveys his opinion on these deleterious effects of capital punishment through his effective use of contrast, irony and symbolism.

Orwell illustrates how capital punishment can cause those executing it to deviate from ethical and moral behaviour through his use of contrast; especially between the prisoners and the guards’ physical appearance and living standards. Firstly, Orwell’s comparison of the prisoners’ cells to “small animal cages”, which contained nothing but “a plank for a bed...

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