Essay on 'Shooting an Elephant'

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Essay on ‘Shooting an Elephant’ by George Orwell

“And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East.“ . This quotation from the short story “Shooting an Elephant” shows the impact of the British Empire on India during the colonial period. The main character, who is a British police officer, serving in Burma shows a big hatred to both sides. We follow him develop into shooting an Elephant.

The protagonist of the story, an Anglo-Indian police officer in Burma, receives a call telling him there is an elephant, in burst, loose running directly through a village. When arriving to the scene, a man has been trampled to death by the Elephant - this results in the protagonist sending an orderly to go and get a riffle. At this very moment we know there is no turning back, we have reached point of no return. When actually finding the elephant it is peacefully grazing outside the village, but the town has heard the amazing news of an elephant having to be shoot and therefore, according to the main character, there are thousands of people looking at him - making the pressure of actually having to shoot the elephant evident.

The setting of the story functions in different ways. Firstly as a way of predicting later events outcome; just before leaving to find the elephant, the main character comments on the weather: “I remember it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains.” (own marking, p. 112 ll. 14-15) the words marked with black are very negatively loaded, and leaves us with the feeling of something bad going to happen - also the sentence is written in dative which makes the prediction stand clearer. The setting also functions as a way of showing emotions. When the main character tells us about the field the elephant had chosen to graze on, he tells about the thousands of yards of rice fields:” [...] a miry waste of paddy fields a...
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