Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review - The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo

This is an eloquent and emotional appeal in fictionalized form for the abolition of the death penalty. The contents are grim and stark, yet the argument trenchant and convincing. Hugo's writing not only touches the heart, but also reaches into the depths of our conscience to rattle our complacency about man-made laws.

Given the political upheavals prevailing at the time, it is not difficult to understand the author's particular hatred of political persecution by means of the guillotine.

".... during any social crisis, of all scaffolds the political scaffold is the most monstrous, the most harmful, the most pernicious, the one that most needs eradicating." -  (Preface)

"Poor young man! How repulsive their so-called political necessities are! For the sake of an idea, a daydream, an abstract theory, this terrible reality called the guillotine!" - (Chapter 11)

This single sentence in the Preface to the 1832 edition epitomizes the author's perspective on crime and punishment:-

"(Society) should not punish to take revenge: it should correct in order to improve."

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