George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” is a simple essay with a strong message. Throughout the piece, the narrator faces the same conflict day after day and was “hated by large numbers of people” (Orwell 377). This level of hatred causes the narrator to make a decision against his beliefs and in favor of the imperialistic society. This decision is not based on the right thing to do, but to simply fit in. Orwell uses his perplexed narrator, a simple plot, and detailed setting to explain how individuals choose self-image over self-satisfaction.
Orwell speaks in first person as a participant taking on the role of a European police officer in an anti-British colony, and is the perplexed individual caught amongst the action. The officer faces unforgiving natives who often meet him with “sneering yellow faces … [and with] insults hooted after me…” (Orwell 378). Yet in irony, those same citizens expect protection from a raging elephant on the loose causing an internal barrier. The officer explains, “They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching” (Orwell 380). It was at that moment when he realizes he is just “an absurd puppet” and is being used by the natives for whatever purpose they need.
The plot in the essay is simple, straight forward, and follows the basic plot elements: the who, what, where, and why. In the first sentence, Orwell presents the narrator as the main character and the roles of the supporting characters. He describes the officer as an outcast, often targeted by the natives for amusement. Orwell wastes no time with deep rising actions, but quickly reaches the climax, exposing the internal conflict. The officer exclaims, “but even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind,” and continues to describe how he was more afraid of looking like a fool in front of the natives than of the tyrant elephant (Orwell 381)....
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