What is Literature Hanging? Origin, examples, and importance

Literature hanging is not usually spoken about among scholars and literature enthusiasts, but as it has come to our notice that a number of literarians are nevertheless interested in learning about the concept, we have come to put this piece together and answer what literature hanging is. 

What is literature hanging?

Literature hanging is a term that refers to the literary representation of hanging as a form of execution or murder. It can also refer to the act of hanging people as a form of artistic expression or protest. This literature type is a way of exploring the themes of death, justice, violence, and human dignity through the medium of writing.

The origin of Literature Hanging

Any literature movement or type whatsoever will align with the characteristics of the period it emerges

With regards to literature hanging, the origin can be traced back to the ancient times, when hanging was a common method of executing criminals, quislings, and enemies. Hanging was also used as a form of lynching, which is the extrajudicial k!lling of a person by a mob. The act was often seen as a humiliating and degrading way of dying, as it exposed the victim’s body and may cause suffocation or neck-breaking.

Literature hanging emerged as a way of documenting, criticizing, or glorifying the practice of hanging. People will always have varying views. Some writers used literature hanging to express their sympathy for the victims, while others used it to justify or celebrate the executioners. Literature hanging also served as a way of challenging the authority and morality of those who imposed or carried out the death penalty.

One of the earliest examples of literature hanging is found in The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an ancient Mesopotamian poem that dates back to around 2100 BC. In this poem, Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, hangs his enemy Humbaba on a cedar tree after defeating him in battle. Gilgamesh then cuts off Humbaba’s head and displays it in his palace. This act of literature hanging shows Gilgamesh’s pride and power over his foe.

Another example of literature hanging is found in The Odyssey, which is an ancient Greek epic poem that dates back to around 800 BC. In this poem, Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, hangs twelve maids who had betrayed him by sleeping with his suitors after he had returned home from his long journey. Odysseus then k!lls all his suitors with the help of his son Telemachus and his loyal servants. This act of literature hanging shows Odysseus’s vengeance and honor over his disloyal subjects.

These examples show how literature hanging emerged as a way of documenting, criticizing, or glorifying the practice of hanging in different cultures and periods.  

What are some examples of literature hanging?

There are many examples of literature hanging in different genres and cultures. Some of the most famous and not far-fetched ones are:

  • A Hanging by George Orwell: We are not unaware of the fact that sometimes when people talk about literature hanging, they mean to discuss this prose, and are usually triggered by the book. 

A Hanging is a short essay written by George Orwell, first published in 1931 in The Adelphi magazine. It describes the execution of an unnamed prisoner in Burma, where Orwell had served as a police officer. The essay shows Orwell’s compassion for the prisoner and his criticism of the colonial system that dehumanized him. 

  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde: This Oscar’s work is another text that comes to mind when literature hanging is mentioned. It is a long poem written by Oscar Wilde, first published in 1898 under the pseudonym C.3.3., which was his prison number. 

The work tells the story of Charles Thomas Wooldridge, who was hanged for murdering his wife at Reading Gaol, where Wilde was also imprisoned for homosexuality. The poem expresses Wilde’s sorrow for Wooldridge and his condemnation of the society that persecuted them both.

  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller: This is a play written by Arthur Miller, first performed in 1953 on Broadway. It dramatizes the Salem witch trials of 1692-93, in which 19 people were hanged for witchcraft. 

The work is an allegory for the McCarthyism era in America, in which many people were accused and blacklisted for being communists or sympathizers. The play shows how hysteria, fear, and intolerance can lead to injustice and tragedy.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: One of the most popular texts on this list is Things Fall Apart. It is a novel written by Chinua Achebe, first published in 1958. It has gained global recognition and has since been translated to over 50 languages. 

In the prose, Achebe tells the story of Okonkwo, a leader of an Igbo village in Nigeria, who struggles to cope with the changes brought by British colonialism and Christianity. The novel ends with Okonkwo hanging himself after k!lling a messenger sent by the colonial authorities. 

The novel depicts the clash between traditional and modern values and the loss of identity and dignity. This, we saw in Okonkwo’s attitude towards the implantation of Christianity in his town and his view on his son’s receptiveness to welcome the religion. 

Why is literature hanging important to study?

You may want to study literature hanging texts for some of the following reasons

Literature hanging
Image for illustration purposes
  • For History 

Literature hanging is important to study because it reveals a lot about the history, culture, and psychology of different societies and individuals. Literature hanging can help us understand how people view life and death, how they cope with violence and oppression, how they express their emotions and opinions, and how they challenge or conform to social norms and expectations.

  • Enhances Critical Thinking

Also, literature hanging can help us develop our critical thinking and creative writing sk!lls. Since it has a way of specially engaging our sixth sense in the texts and context analysis processes, we would get better at how to use language and imagery effectively, how to structure arguments and narratives logically, and how to communicate our ideas clearly and persuasively. 

Read Also: How Literature Enhances Critical Thinking

  • Enhances Empathy

This kind of literature can also inspire us to reflect on our own values and beliefs, and to question our own actions and decisions. It can make us aware of the consequences of our choices and the impact we have on others. Literature hanging can also encourage us to empathize with those who suffer or struggle, and to appreciate those who resist or create.

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