Artifact Analysis Summary – The Gallows

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.

One thought on “Artifact Analysis Summary – The Gallows

  1. Stephanie Yanaros

    After reading your summary and interpretation of The Gallows, I am interested in reading this story. This past semester, I was in Scudder’s Dar-al-Islam Yemen course and we spent a lot of time learning about the Islamic culture and the struggles the Yemeni people are facing.
    As you said before, “if there was another upfront story about public executions we would most likely pass over it.” You are not wrong for saying that. Just look at Yemen. They are in the midst of political, social, and economic turmoil. They have been battling the same war for two years now and not many people have been acknowledging how harsh their living conditions really are. Schools are being shut down because they do not have the funds to keep them open. Many children are dying of preventable diseases and famine because Yemen is spending more money on the war then they are on providing their people with clean water and enough food. They live their lives in fear of dying. It is disgusting to hear about this and have no real way of helping them. Just like you said, people need to stop passing over stories like this.
    These courses seem to relate to one another very much. You talk about the corrupted justice and crimes that are being committed in this story. Just like in Yemen, many struggles are being faced. Many crimes are being committed and no one is around to correct those people. Where is the justice? Yemen’s main port for importing food has been captured and blocked off and no one is doing anything about it (or so it seems). Where is the government to say that this is wrong? The whole place is corrupt and it is so sad to see. Those that commit crimes deserve to be punished. I believe that is another major problem in Yemen. The government is too caught up in the war that they are not listening to the people. There is too much crime and corruption for any good to be done.
    Lastly, you mention the Arabic extremists. There are extremists everywhere and it is so hard to control them. While you guys were focusing on the Arabic culture, we were studying the Islamic culture. They too struggle with Islamic extremists. In Yemen they struggle with ISIS. In the United States, we often see that Islamic people are discriminated against because of the way they look. There is such a bad stigma to their culture because of the extremists groups, which is the same for the Arabic people as well. I believe these judgments come from the uneducated. Islamic culture is a very welcoming community. They are not looking to harm people or cause trouble. Those outside of the Islamic and Arabic cultures need to understand that just because people are different does not mean they are a threat.
    From looking at your post and what I have learned in my course on Yemen, it is clear that people need to open their eyes to the world around them. Different cultures live their lives differently and instead of judging them, we need to educate ourselves and try to see things from their perspectives. I also think that people need to be more aware of the situations in countries like Jordan and Yemen. Outside of America, people are struggling and we could be doing much more to help them. All it takes is for people to just open their eyes and be more aware of their surroundings.


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