The Gallows – Suhayr al-Tall
This is a unique short story that puts much of the details on the reader. Because of this, there are many interpretations of the same story. I interpreted this story as a recount of a public execution. While not quite the most pleasant topic, the story itself is certainly interesting as the author forces the reader to fill in details and meaning behind the events mentioned. The use of a vague setting and vague character influence this ambiguity. Whether my interpretation is right or wrong, it is clear that the author wants to convey a sense of urgency and universality. The story is not about one single person, rather it is about a general person in a general setting. This puts most of the reader’s focus on the events and allows the reader to instantly become part of the story rather than simply reading about some specific person’s life.
My interpretation focuses on much of the violence in this story and how it seems to influence the idea of a public execution. The author writes about the characters walking through a crowd and having to endure what appears to be a public stoning. The crowd seems to be out for some sort of corrupted justice, possibly in response to a crime the character and their other half have committed. The language suggests that resistance to what is going on is futile and that the character has accepted their fate because that is all they can do. Taking into account the author’s background, this story could have been written to provide a representation of what is happening in some Arabic countries where extremists have enforced the idea of honor killings. This practice is well known to most of the world however we have heard so much about it that at this point, if there was another upfront story about public executions we would most likely pass it over. The style of this short story allows it to be universal and timeless, however the message behind the words seems to be the same; public executions are happening for illegitimate reasons to more than just specific parties, and we should be concerned about it.