Fredericksburg Academy comments
There are definitely clues in the story as to why Ikky is being executed; they're small, but they're there. It's a story you don't want to skim, because you'll miss out on important information.
A couple of you have asked why the community is using this particular method of executing Ikky. The simple answer is, because it's there. And it doesn't require any violence on anyone's part to bring on a person's death; you just send the criminal out to the middle of the tar and make them stand still, and the tar-pit does the rest. So it looks as if they kill themselves, really, and no one in the village needs to feel guilty, or to have any harrowing memories (except, of course, the family of the accused, who have to watch their family member's agonisingly slow death).
This story definitely takes place on Planet Earth, but I didn't want to pin it down any more specifically than that. I didn't want readers to be able to dismiss this ritual as belonging to another culture, and therefore feel that it wasn't their business to question it; I didn't want them to dismiss it as something that their own people wouldn't do. It's something that I feel it's not too hard to imagine that humans would do, even if they're not doing it down the road at my local courthouse.
I hope you enjoy reading and thinking about this and other stories in your course.