Analysis of George Orwell's Shooting an Elepant

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Orwell’s autobiographical account of shooting and eventually killing an elephant presents the animal and its death sympathetically as it died a slow, painful death. Through the language, the author evokes sympathy towards the elephant and a slightly more complex feeling towards the author who, although he kills the elephant, suffers inwardly during the process and appears to be affected by the Burman crowd’s greed to strip the carcass.

In the society Orwell lived in, hunting was common amongst gentlemen and is less challenged morally. This is revealed by “one never does…” The use of this inclusive pronoun brings the reader to a circle of experienced hunters and indicates Orwell’s assumption of the reader’s shared values. However this does not justify the killing of the elephant due to the emphasis of the long suffering of the animal. This implies that Orwell feels although there is no problem in hunting and shooting animals, this experience of this elephant’s death remained with him. Therefore he presents the elephant as gentle and noble and its death as shocking and long drawn out.

Written in the first person, the author is able to convey his feelings and thoughts but avoids sympathy or justification for himself as he never mentions his feelings directly. Through the eyes of the author, the “agony” of the dying elephant is emphasized and how unbearable it is for him to watch the elephant die. He hears the “tortured gasps” of the elephant as “dreadful”. Where the adjective “tortured” connotes great pain caused deliberately. Sympathy for the elephant is evident as he refers to the elephant as “he” as opposed to “it”. This use of the personal pronoun personalizes the elephant and suggests Orwell realizes the elephant was more than an object of sport.

The startling opening perspective presents the elephant as a passive victim and the increasingly closer perspective to the dying animal increases sympathy for the elephant further. Right at the beginning, the...
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