George Orwell's "Shooting a Elephant"

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English 121 115
Erica Holcomb
09/12/2012
“Shooting an Elephant”

“Shooting an Elephant” is an essay by George Orwell in which he describes his experience of being called upon to shoot an aggressive elephant while working as a police officer in Burma. Because the locals expect him to do the job, he does so against his better judgment. The act of caving-in to the pressure he felt from the locals enlightens him to the underlying duties that come with being part of the imperialistic movement that was happening. He shows the similarities between the smaller act of killing the elephant versus the larger act of the empire occupying Burma by describing the internal conflict he wrestled with while trying to decide what course of action to take. On one hand I agree that he needed to shoot the elephant to preserve the respect and admiration bestowed upon him by the waiting crowd. On the other hand, I feel that he compromised his moral and ethical standards just to avoid looking like a fool. In Moulmein, Burma, George Orwell is a police officer during a period of intense anti-European sentiment. As such, he is subjected to constant baiting and jeering by the local people. After receiving a call regarding a normally tame elephant's rampage, Orwell, armed with a .44 caliber Winchester rifle, goes to the town where the elephant has been seen. Entering one of the poorest quarters, he receives conflicting reports and almost decides it has just been a bunch of lies when he hears screams nearby. He then sees a village woman chasing away children who are looking at the corpse of an Indian whom the elephant has trampled and killed. He sends an orderly to bring an elephant rifle and, followed by a group of at least two thousand people, heads toward the paddy field where the elephant has decided to rest. Although he does not want to kill the elephant, Orwell feels pressured by the demand of the crowd for the act to be carried out. "I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by...
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