A Literary Analysis of Orwells a Hanging, Thomas on Natural Death and Robinsons Richard Corey
Death has always been a grim subject for most people only because it hasn’t been dealt with. For some, death is a very natural and beautiful thing. A time to come together and celebrate the life lived by the newly deceased. After reading Orwell’s “A Hanging,” Thomas’ “On Natural Death,” and Robinson’s “Richard Corey,” several similarities stand out. Death is an inevitable act so it is a waste of effort to stress about it. Death also comes when you least expect it, so sudden it makes those around you heart stop momentarily. The most soothing fact, death is perhaps painless, a pleasure if you will. On the other hand, the tones of the three stories are all very different, and its impact is felt differently. Also, in “Richard Corey” and “A Hanging,” the deaths were premature, whereas in “Natural Death,” it is precisely that, a natural death. Death can be presented in many manors. Are you afraid of death? Being afraid of death is natural, but there is no need to do so. Death is going to get you one way or another; there is no escape. For example in Thomas’ essay “On Natural Death” it states, “I gave up throwing sticks at the cat to make him drop the mouse … mouse went ahead and died anyway”(193, bk.3). No matter how many times the boy tried to stop the cat from eating the mouse, the mouse died anyway, showing that is was indeed his time to go.
Another example of the inescapability of death was shown in Orwell’s “A Hanging.” Here, a dog tried to interrupt the hanging by being a nuisance. It lasted for a time until the dog was caught; the hanging went on with normal procedures. In both cases some living force tried to help the victim but failed miserably because they just created more time for the event to get more intense. When the cat drops the mouse out of its mouth before completing the job, the mouse must lay in pain until it passes, if it does feel pain. For the hooded victim, standing on stage crying out to his god, not knowing which will be his last cry, is a completely new form of torture. In both cases death was inevitable although prolonged for a short while.
What are some signs to look for when death is near? Older people know there time is near, but sometimes it is out of nowhere that the person moves on. In Robinson’s poem “Richard Corey,” Richard Corey is a very respectable, upper class, educated man with half his life still ahead of him. Yet something was still missing for him because with everything going for him, he committed suicide well ahead of his time. He must have felt very alone and felt he can’t connect with anyone. We have all felt that way, but probably not for as long as he had. Also, the tree in Thomas’ “Natural Death” looked fine one week, in the next it was completely naked. Not a single lament could have guessed what was going to happen to that tree. Disease can sometimes be the cause of death, whether physically or mentally. Not to mention in Orwells’ “A Hanging,” what seemed like an eternity to the hangee while hooded on stage calling to his god, the suddenness of the decision of the hanger at which instant the hooded man disappeared was a split moment in time that was unknown. It is a good thing that most do not know when their time is. Imagine if it one knew when his time was, logically he would try to avoid it, would he succeed? Thirty Seconds prior, ones heart must be pounding like Tyson’s punches almost causing a heart attack, causing you to faint, completely missing your chance for avoidance. Perhaps suddenness is the way to go.
Usually when death enters my mind, the thought of pain is not too far behind. On the other hand. Montaigne in Thomas’ essay depicts death as a sensational event. Feeling as though having “that sweet feeling that people have who have let themselves slide into sleep”(194, bk.9). It sounds celestial and pleasant; the passing on of your soul to wherever it is that is goes. Likewise, in “A Hanging” no pain was evident because of immediate death. Imagine being the doctor when death was not complete? Having to go under and “pull the prissoners leg’s to ensure decease”(87, bk.1). In that situation does the victim feel pain? What could be going through his mind at that point? The pain is only felt when the natural death does not take place. It is a result of the body’s inability to prepare for the moment to release the endorphins to create a new euphoria of some type.
The variation in the tones of the three pieces differs but still has an equal and effective impact. In Thomas’ essay it has a very settling, almost calming tone. For example, when Thomas describes the reaction of a mouse during death, “if a mouse could shrug, he’d shrug”(194, Bk.6). Also the tree surgeons leaving in their red truck “everyone singing”(193, bk.3) brings a cheery feeling. On the other hand, Orwells’ “A Hanging” has a very careless, emotionless, what is the big deal type of attitude. It is merely the morning hanging to those people in India. Afterwards they go to work, eat breakfast, or go out and play as it nothing had changed. A brief description of the picture afterwards, “it seemed quite a homely, jolly scene, after the hanging … one felt an impulse to sing, to break into a run, to snigger”(86, bk. 17). After the hanging the superintendent told his boys “you’d better all come out and have a drink … I’ve got a bottle … in the car” (87, bk.20). All this from a mere one hundred yards away from the hung body.
Looking at the tone of Robinson’s “Richard Corey” one gets the sense of admiration and motivation. The way Richard Corey is described, what everyone wants to be, “a gentleman from sole to crown”(line 3). Not to mention he had almost everything, “he was rich yes, richer than a king”(line 9). He was who we all dream to be eventually, but all those wishes and desires are lost with the last line, “Went home and put a bullet through his head”(line 16). The contrast of Richard Corey’s appearance and the devastating hit of the last line creates a lasting impression. As you can see the road each author takes is different with each being a ride of its own. Another comparison between “Richard Corey” and “A Hanging” is that both deaths were premature. In the two stories, death is taken out of the hands of nature and into the hands of humans. Richard Corey took his own life well ahead of his time for what ever the reason was. The gentleman hung definitely could have gone on, “I saw the mystery …of cutting a life short when it is in full tide”(84, bk.8). It is wrong to deny a man his right to live, if it is not, it certainly is not up to us to decide.
Opposite to “Richard Corey” and “A Hanging,” “Natural Death” portrays death naturally. When the time is right it will come to you. The elm tree died of its own natural causes, such as disease. The mouse had the unfortunate misfortune of running into a cat. In either scenario, no human interference occurred. It is impossible to hide from death, but it is easy to find it. Evidently, these three authors contained similar tactics in their writings. Both Orwell and Thomas depicted that death cannot be stopped. Both also point out the painless factor. All three authors, including Robinson, had varying tones relayed through their writings. All three also made evident the suddenness of death. With out a doubt death is a subject that can be illustrated and presented in different and effective manors.