Orwell's Shooting an Elephant

Topics: George Orwell, British Empire, Burma Pages: 2 (729 words) Published: November 27, 2012
George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant

George Orwell writes of his experience in British-ruled India in the early twentieth century as a sub-divisional police officer in the sovereign Southeast Asia state of Burma. His essay presents a powerful theme of inner conflict. Orwell’s strong inner conflict lies between what he believes as a human being and what he should do as an imperial police officer. Orwell immediately claims his perspective on British imperialism saying that it is evil and that he is fully against the British oppressors, even though he himself is a symbol of foreign oppression to the Burmese. His conflict ultimately results from the fact that he hates the British Empire, which should make him pity the Burmese people, but he does not. This is made clear when he says: “All I knew that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited beasts who tried to make my job impossible” (Orwell 1). In his story Orwell writes not only about his personal experience with the “wild” elephant but how the elephant’s rampaging spree is a metaphor exhibiting the destructive power of imperialism; the elephant destroys homes and even kills a man. Orwell’s hostile feelings toward the British, imperialism, and the Burmese people are further revealed when sets the mood of the story by illustrating the setting in Burma to be a “cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains” (Orwell 2). Orwell then establishes himself as a “weak” character when he introduces the Burma people and how they completely disrespect the British officer by constantly laughing and mocking him. When Orwell finally finds the elephant, he admits that, “I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him”...and that he “did not want to shoot the elephant” (Orwell 2). He ultimately falls into the expectations of the Burmese when he decides to shoot the elephant, despite the many reasons not to shoot it such as how it is worth more alive rather...
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