A Hanging By Stanley Fish

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There are a number of factors that contribute to our interpretive process. The origin of our interpretations can be from several different sources. Whether that may be what we’ve been taught throughout our lives and through institutional settings, or by what we’ve experienced and how they have affected our ways of thinking. It is rare that we take the time to find out where all of our interpretations stem from, but it is interesting to see what goes in it. My theory of interpretation is that it comes from a mixture of things, our backgrounds, our personalities, and our knowledge. Interpretations come from how we perceive different symbols or words to signify, whether this be affected by facts or how we feel. Professor and lawyer, Stanley Fish…show more content…
The essay, “A Hanging” is by author George Orwell, and it tells the story of a prison guard accompanying a prisoner to his execution. Throughout the story, the narrator follows an inmate to his hanging, and he makes comments that can be interpreted as his true feelings. I assumed the narrator of the story to be a prison guard based on the context, and the perspective seeming to be that of an outside view, one that is watching the prisoners. For example, Orwell writes, “We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages” (Orwell 1). I interpreted this to be proof of the narrator being a prison guard, perhaps because of the question, who else would be in a prison looking at the cells, yet not inside of them? I had assumed information based on the context. Fish explains this by using a hypothetical situation of university students exiting a class, making the point that we would assume that they were leaving because, “your perception of their action occurs within a knowledge of what people in a university could possibly be doing and the reasons they could have for doing it” (Fish 330). We make assumptions about contexts based on things that are so common to us, we believe it to be obvious…show more content…
For example, a dog is described as appearing from nowhere and interrupting the walk to the execution. Orwell writes that the dog, “…came bounding among us with a loud volley of barks, and leapt round us wagging its whole body, wild with glee at finding so many human beings together” (Orwell 2). At this point I questioned why a dog would appear and stop what was happening, and I came to the conclusion that the dog represented nature. The actions of the dog, being seemingly innocent and well-intentioned, is a characteristic I have come to associate with nature and the earth. In culture, man is always described as destroying the environment or being the only creatures capable of evil. It was natural for me to assume the dog, or nature would not approve of the killing of a man. Perhaps I believe this because of my morals engrained in me from my upbringing that has been taught to me throughout my life. This idea of norms of behavior is something that Fish mentions, “Internalized awareness of institutional goals and practices, of norms of behavior, of lists of do’s and don’ts, of invisible lines and the dangers of crossing them” (Fish 330). There are socially acceptable ways of reacting to situations, especially ones not considered moral. It is expected for someone to believe that killing is wrong, and it is, but it’s important to acknowledge we believe this

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