Orwell and Langston - Shooting an Elephant and Salvation

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Aurelian M. Gogean
What you give up to fit in?

Many people sacrifice their beliefs and values to be accepted in society and to win the societies approval. George Orwell in “Shooting an elephant” and Langston Hughes in “Salvation” deal with the issue of “fitting in” in very different ways.

George Orwell describes to us in “Shooting an elephant” the struggle that his character faces when to win the mobs approval and respect when he shoots down an innocent animal and sacrifices what he believes to be right. Orwell is a police officer in Moulmein, during the period of the British occupation of Burma. An escaped elephant gives him the opportunity to prove himself in front of his people and to be able to become a “somebody” on the social scene. “I had no intention of shooting the elephant”, Orwell confesses to us but under the pressure of the crowd; “it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you”[pg. 286] he cracks.

He changes his perspective just to be able to fit in: “soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him”[pg. 287] he says, but he would like to become a respected person in society. Orwell thinks that he is doing “the dirty work of the Empire”[pg. 284]. His position within the social scale is one that breaks him apart from being one of the people and becoming a imperialist; “I was hated by a large number of people” [pg. 284]. Orwell fights against the system and against his people in the same time and when the moment comes, he decides to shoot the elephant to gain a small sentiment of approval from the unnerving crowd; “I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool”[pg. 291].

Orwell`s character is a unique person that wants to gain a second of attention and for that he gives up something that he thinks that is correct, not shooting an elephant, for a small grade of approval.

In another example, Langston Hughes in “Salvation” shows us how a small little boy, under the pressure of the...
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