Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Our Country’s Good can help.

Our Country’s Good: Act Two, Scene Six Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Later, Harry summons Ketch to take Liz’s measurements in preparation for her hanging the next day. Apologetically, Ketch tries to measure Liz, saying all the while how much he doesn’t want to hang her. He also promises to make sure the rope is the perfect length so that she won’t dangle in the air and suffer as she dies a slow death. This, apparently, is what happened to Thomas Barrett. Turning to Harry, Ketch says that he can’t measure Liz unless she stands up, adding that it’s difficult to hang a woman, since women are lighter and—because of this—their necks might not break when the rope catches them. “You’ve hung a boy,” Harry says in Thomas Barrett’s voice. Finally, Harry grabs Liz and forces her to her feet. As Ketch determines her height, Harry sporadically makes accusatory pronouncements in Thomas’s voice.
It’s not hard to see why Ketch would have such a hard time measuring Liz for her hanging; she’s not only a fellow convict, but a fellow actor, too. However, it’s worth noting that Harry seems to be the one who feels the most guilt, as evidenced by his inability to block out Thomas Barrett’s voice. The difference between Ketch and Harry’s reactions has to do with the kind of forgiveness they each need. Ketch wants his peers to forgive him for taking the role as the hangman. Since he knows that someone else would do the job if he didn’t, though, he doesn’t necessarily feel the need to forgive himself for what he’s done. Harry, on the other hand, is involved in an internal struggle to forgive himself for playing a part in Handy and Thomas’s deaths—an internal struggle he just can’t seem to overcome.
Themes
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
After measuring Liz, Ketch apologizes again, telling her that if he doesn’t hang her, someone else will. At least, he says, he can make sure that she feels as little pain as possible. As he and Harry are about to leave, Liz finally speaks, asking Harry to tell Ralph that she didn’t steal any food. “Why didn’t you say that before?” Harry asks, but she doesn’t answer. At this point, Thomas Barrett’s voice completely takes control of Harry and describes the sensation of hanging, saying, “First fear, then a pain at the back of the neck. Then nothing.” Suddenly, in his own voice, Harry says, “I can’t see. It’s dark. It’s dark,” and collapses.
When Liz says she didn’t help steal any food and Harry asks why she didn’t “say that before,” audience members can reasonably assume that she has already had her trial and that she declined to argue for her own innocence. This is in keeping with her previous assertion that “if they say you’re a thief, you’re a thief.” Unfortunately for her, though, Harry is too overwhelmed by his own personal demons to be a good advocate for her.
Themes
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon