The Penalty of Death – Summary | Major English Class 12

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Death SentenceMajor English | Notes
Summary of “The Penalty of Death”
Major (Optional) English
Grade: XII | Unit: Encounters
H.L. Mencke

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 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 the 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 that 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 the 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 of 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 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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