Reading Quiz on "A Hanging" by George Orwell

A multiple-choice reading comprehension quiz

George Orwell next to BBC microphone

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First published in 1931, A Hanging is one of George Orwell's best-known essays. To test your understanding of Orwell's narrative, take this brief quiz, and then compare your responses with the answers on page two.

1. George Orwell’s “A Hanging” is set in which one of the following countries?
(A) India
(B) Burma
(C) England
(D) Eurasia
(E) Persia
2. At what time of day do the events in "A Hanging" take place?
(A) about an hour before sunrise
(B) in the morning
(C) at high noon
(D) late in the afternoon
(E) at sunset
3. In paragraph three, a bugle call is described as "desolately thin in the wet air." In this context, the word desolately means
(A) without hope or comfort
(B) with doubt or suspicion
(C) in a quiet manner, softly
(D) lacking a tune or silently
(E) in a sentimental or romantic way
4. Which one of the following characters does not appear in Orwell’s "A Hanging”?
(A) the hangman, a gray-haired convict in the white uniform of the prison
(B) the superintendent of the jail, [who] was an army doctor, with a gray toothbrush moustache and a gruff voice
(C) Francis, the head jailer
(D) a Hindu prisoner, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes
(E) an old Indian judge, with a gold-rimmed monocle and a handlebar moustache
5. When the procession to the gallows is interrupted by a dog (which "made a dash for the prisoner and . . . tried to lick his face"), what does the superintendent say?
(A) "Come here, pooch."
(B) "Shoot it!"
(C) "Never a dull moment."
(D) "Who let that bloody brute in here?"
(E) "Leave him alone. Let him be."
6. The narrator doesn't refer directly to himself or use a pronoun in the first-person singular until paragraph eight. Which sentence marks this shift in point of view?
(A) "For God's sake hurry up, Francis," I said irritably.
(B) I fixed the rope round the prisoner's neck.
(C) Then we put my handkerchief through its collar...
(D) I reached out with my stick and poked the bare brown body...
(E) The superintendent passed the whisky to me.
7. What simple action by the prisoner causes the narrator to realize for the first time "what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man"?
(A) saying "God bless you"
(B) avoiding a puddle
(C) petting the dog
(D) praying
(E) calling for his daughter
8. What is the one word that the prisoner cries out (repeatedly)?
(A) “Innocent!”
(B) “Help!”
(C) “Ram!”
(D) “No!”
(E) “Stella!”
9. After the hanging, the narrator reports that "Francis was walking by the superintendent, talking garrulously." In this context, what does garrulously mean?
(A) in a rambling or excessively talkative way
(B) softly, reverently
(C) in a pompous, self-important manner
(D) sorrowfully
(E) in a hesitant, uncertain manner
10. At the very end of Orwell’s “A Hanging,” what do the remaining characters (that is, all but the prisoner and, presumably, the dog) do?
(A) pray for the soul of the dead prisoner
(B) discuss the ethical dimensions of their behavior
(C) shoot the dog
(D) hang another Hindu
(E) laugh and drink whiskey

Answers to the Reading Quiz on A Hanging

  1. (B) Burma
  2. (B) in the morning
  3. (A) without hope or comfort
  4. (E) an old Indian judge, with a gold-rimmed monocle and a handlebar moustache
  5. (D) "Who let that bloody brute in here?"
  6. (C) Then we put my handkerchief through its collar...
  7. (B) avoiding a puddle
  8. (C) “Ram!”
  9. (A) in a rambling or excessively talkative way
  10. (E) laugh and drink whiskey