In 1931, George Orwell wrote a magnificent essay simply entitled, “A Hanging.” That piece is a hauntingly simple story of a prison execution.  There is no fantasy in the dying and we are made real and substantial witnesses.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned–reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.

As George Orwell records what he sees, we are left — 80 years later — in the wake of a strange aftermath of remorse while reading.

We wonder if there is a better way ahead of us than killing those who have harmed us.

If we use violence to punish violence — how will we ever be rid of violent acts?

If we are defined by our behaviors — and made better by our deeds — can it be possible to live a human life without the need to defile the beauty of our vessel in order to eradicate the evil that hides within?

Posted by David Boles

David Boles was born in Nebraska and his MFA is from Columbia University in the City of New York. He is an Author, Lyricist, Playwright, Publisher, Editor, Actor, Designer, Director, Poet, Producer, and Boodle Boy for print, radio, television, film, the web and the live stage. With more than 50 books in print, David continues to write 2MM words a year. He has authored over 25K articles and published more. Read the Prairie Voice Archive at | Buy his books at David Boles Books Writing & Publishing | Earn the world with David Boles University | Get a script doctored at Script Professor | Touch American Sign Language mastery at Hardcore ASL.


  1. Such a sad piece — and so true, David. When will the killing / violence stop?



    1. We have to find a better way, Gordon. I wonder if science will come to our rescue to “re-program” the criminal mind for goodness and honor?



  2. […] Posted on August 18, 2010 by David W. Boles The strangled mechanism spits dancing — dangling — from a knotted […]



  3. […] The Killer American Self: Democracy as Suicide Posted on August 18, 2010 by David W. Boles Yesterday, we witnessed the Death Penalty — circa 1931 — with George Orwell’s assistance in “Taking the Mechanism Out of Man.” […]



  4. […] to kill a man.  We have used the electric chair, the gas chamber, firing squad, lethal injection and the noose and they’re all sloppy, expensive, painful and time-intensive methods of […]



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