An Analysis of Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"

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An Analysis of Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"

Erika Moreno-Dalton

In "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell finds himself in a difficult situation involving an elephant. The fate of the elephant lies in his hands. Only he can make the final decision. In the end, due to Orwell's decision, the elephant lay dying in a pool of blood. Orwell wins the sympathy of readers by expressing the pressure he feels as an Anglo-Indian in Burma, struggling with his morals, and showing a sense of compassion for the dying animal.

Readers sympathize with Orwell because they can relate to his emotions in the moments before the shooting. Being the white "leader," he should have been able to make an independent decision, but was influenced by the "natives" (Orwell 101). Orwell describes his feelings about being pressured to shoot the elephant: "Here I was the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed crowd - seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind (101). Everyone has been in a situation in which he or she has been expected to be a leader. For different reasons people are looked to as leaders, sometimes because of their race, ethnicity, or heritage. In this case, Orwell was pictured as a leader because he was British and he worked for the British Empire. Readers are able to relate to the fact that he does not want to be humiliated in front of the Burmese. He declares, "Every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at" (101). Orwell compares the elephant to the huge British Empire, and just as the elephant has lost control, he feels that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys (100). Secretly he hates the British Empire and is on the side of the Burmese (97). The elephant is equivalent to the British Empire ravaging through Burma and disrupting the little bit of peace that they have. So in...
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