Orwell's Dilemma

Topics: George Orwell, Authority, Burma Pages: 3 (1062 words) Published: December 16, 2012
Orwell’s Dilemma
In a typical work environment, the authority figures, or the managers, are inclined to assert pressure on the employees to ensure their job is executed according to plan. Occasionally, the managers may take arbitrary actions that are evidently unnecessary and abusive. In the perspective of the subordinate this is deemed unjust and is the main source of their frustration. These denunciations only depict the managers as baseless, evil creatures that derive pleasure from their subordinate’s misery. But are all authority figures iniquitous as they seem? While there are a few who are just downright evil like the “sadistic fringe of society” in Milgram’s experiment, most managers take forceful actions to preserve their image of authority before their subordinates, even if they object to these type of actions. This situation closely relates to George Orwell’s dilemma in “Shooting an Elephant.” Orwell, a British police in Burma, is assigned to shoot down an elephant that has gone rampant. However, he is ambivalent to kill the elephant because of the pressure put on by the huge crowd of Burmans. In his essay, Orwell is faced with an ethical dilemma between his humanistic conscience and the authoritarian conscience which forces him into an action to which he objects.

The burdensome atmosphere of the situation caused Orwell to conform to the expectations of the crowd of Burmans. When Orwell and the crowd approached the elephant, it took no notice of them and looked in peace eating up bunches of grass. Also, killing a working elephant will enrage the owner, so it was best to avoid shooting the elephant if possible. It was quite evident that Orwell himself never wanted to kill the elephant. However, this positioned him as an extreme minority of opinions among the excited Burmans whom were eagerly waiting for the elephant’s demise. Orwell describes the scene: It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the...
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