The Penalty of Death – Summary | Major English Grade XII

H.L. Mencke

The Penalty of Death – Summary | Major English Grade XII

The Penalty of Death

H.L. Mencken’s essay “The Penalty of Death” advocates in favor of the death penalty. Mencken thinks that capital punishment is a very beneficial component of any justice system. Mencken thinks that the death penalty should be given to those who take the lives of other people challenging all civilized order. He presents three reasons for his support of capital punishment. They are pleasantness of ancient art, deterrence, and katharsis.

Mencken attacks the abolitionists' idea that hangman’s job is unpleasant. He claims that there are many jobs which are unpleasant like the job of soldier, sweeper, plumber etc. but which are needed for the society. He thinks that hangman is satisfied to practice his ancient craft and also is needed for society. Mencken mentions that capital punishment saves lives. It saves lives because it stops those who murder from ever murdering again. It also deters potential murderers from ever committing the crime.

The last reason that Mencken gives is the strongest of all. He claims that the main reason for death punishment is to provide Katharsis to the victims, relatives, and society at large. Katharsis is the healthy release of emotions, grief, hatred or anger. It provides sudden emotional and mental satisfaction. It also brings a sense of security and mental peace to the public at large.

Important Questions:

  • Identify Mencken’s three reasons for his support of capital punishment. Do all three seem to you equally strong?
  • What are Mencken’s three reasons for death punishment? Explain if you are for or against him.

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