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Literature / The Hangman

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The Hangman is a moderately long allegorical poem by Maurice Ogden, concerning an ordinary town to which comes the Hangman. He raises a scaffold, tells everyone that he is here to hang the one who "serves him most faithfully", before beginning to hang people, one by one, day by day, until only the narrator remains. It has been adapted into a short film, which can be seen here.

The Hangman provides examples of:


  • Allegory: The entire poem is one to Nazi Germany and its atrocities, and finds its parallel in Niemoller's poem, First They Came...
  • Animated Adaptation: As linked to above.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the last stanza, the narrator assumes the Hangman is calling him to dismantle the gallows. He's wrong.
  • Bystander Syndrome: A harsh critique of this behavior and its consequences.
  • The Dreaded: The titular Hangman inspires terror in the townspeople.
  • Exact Words: A variant, in that the Hangman's works are quite clear, but not understood.
    "The one who serves most faithfully shall earn the rope on the gallows tree."
  • The Nameless: Principally the narrator and the Hangman, no names are given in the poem.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The second-last stanza is this, as the Hangman denounces the moral cowardice of the narrator.
    Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye. "Lied to you? Tricked you?" he said. "Not I.
    For I answered straight and I told you true: the scaffold was raised for none but you.
    For who has served more faithfully than you with your coward's hope?" said he.
    "And where are the others that might have stood side by side in the common good?"
    "Dead," I whispered; and amiably, "Murdered," the Hangman corrected me.
    "First the alien, then the Jew...I did no more than you let me do."
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  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The narrator's ultimate fate is to swing on the gallows for aiding and abetting The Hangman.


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