Personally Orwell viewed imperialism as an evil thing and was all for the Burmans against their British oppressors. And one day he experienced the real nature of imperialism. A police sub-inspector informed him that an elephant was ravaging a bazaar. It was a tame one that had gone “musth” (Hindi for mad, and is linked to sexual arousal), had broken its chain and escaped. It had destroyed a hut, killed a cow and trampled to death a black Dravidian coolie. Orwell proceeded with an elephant rifle. An excited Burman crowd eagerly waited for the fun of seeing the elephant shot, and also wanted its meat. Orwell spotted it near a miry paddy field peacefully stuffing bunches of grass into its mouth and showing no interest in the crowd.
Though Orwell never wanted to shoot it, the fun-seeking crowd expected it of him, and he had got to do it. The white sahib must always try to impress the natives. He has got to act like a sahib, and appear resolute and do definite things. But if he falters and fails to act, he would be laughed at by the natives, and this must never happen.
For various reasons Orwell did not want to shoot the elephant which also seemed to be calming down. But then if it charged him as he came too near and he happened to miss the shot, he would be pursued and trampled to death. That would make the natives laugh, and this he would never let happen.
Orwell decided to shoot the elephant to hold up the white imperialist’s high heroic image. Aiming at his perceived location of the elephant's brain, he fired a shot which brought the elephant to its knees. After another shot, the elephant gained its footing only to be brought down with a third round. The elephant being still alive, Orwell fired two more heavy rounds and then a clip of regular rifle rounds into the beast - to no avail. Unable to stand the elephant's agony any longer, he left the scene, only to learn later that it took the elephant a further half an hour more to die, during which time the...
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