Richard Selzer's Use Of Irony In The Discus Thrower

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George Orwell’s narrative essay “A Hanging” describes Orwell witnessing the execution of a prisoner. Richard Selzer’s essay “The Discus Thrower” describes Selzer’s experience dealing with an extremely sick and problematic patient. Although when first examined the two essays seem very different, they also share many thematic similarities. The most important parts of both pieces are the authors’ respective approaches to irony, the role of the author within their piece, and the authors’ views on death. First of all, both authors use irony within their respective essays. The title “The Discus Thrower” is an irony in itself, when comparing the spectacle of an athletic discus thrower to the sickly patient Selzer describes. Orwell employs a similar form of irony when describing the prisoner of “A Hanging” as “a puny wisp of a man,”. Both of the dying men are physically different from what their assigned titles invoke. Orwell explores irony in his essay through the dog. The dog’s sudden appearance and behaviour is incredibly ironic to the established tone of the essay. Selzer’s most significant use of irony occurs when the sick man requests “a pair of shoes”. The request is both unexpected and puzzling because the patient has no legs. Orwell used irony to contrast his situation to everyday life, whereas Selzer used irony to express how hopeless…show more content…
Orwell is much more of an observer because he never actually interacts with the prisoner. Selzer speaks directly to the patient, and vainly attempts to ease his suffering. While Orwell was associated with the men killing the prisoner, Selzer was actively attempting to help the sick man. This puts the two authors in vastly contrasting positions. However, in both cases the writers had limited control, and it is unlikely their actions would ultimately change the outcome of their respective

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