The Ballad of Reading Gaol Imagery

The Ballad of Reading Gaol Imagery


When the narrator first hears about the sentenced prisoner, the prison is described in such a manner as to create the idea of hopelessness. The sky, the symbol of freedom for the inmates in the prison began to look like a casque of steel and the walls of the prison are described as appearing much taller and impenetrable. This image has the role of emphasizing the fact that there was not hope for the man sentenced to death.

Angel of death

The governor who sentences the prisoner to death is described as the angel of death. He wears black clothes and has a yellow face, pointing towards the imminent death of the prisoner. Through his description, the narrator describes a government official who doesn’t care about the prisoner’s feelings, a cold person who is only interested in making sure that the prisoner will be executed.


The executioner is described as a gardener and the description provided by the narrator creates the image of a harmless gardener who only wants to take care of his plants. The narrator tells about the hangman that he deals with soil, wears gardener gloves and has leather thongs , the narrator creating with this elements the image of a gardener inside the reader’s mind.


In the second part of the poem, the narrator describes the man who was to be killed. Instead of being a broken man, he is presented as a person who discovered what it meant to really be alive, who enjoyed every little thing that went unnoticed by the other inmates and who seemed to be at peace with himself.

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