Shooting an Elephant

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In George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”, Orwell is presented with a task that causes him a great deal of stress as he battles with his internal conflict throughout the story. Orwell has mixed feelings after he kills the elephant. He feels wrong for killing the elephant because he feels that there could have been a more peaceful solution and killing it will bring more harm than good. He also feels that he killed it just because of his own pride. Although killing the elephant may seem wrong to Orwell, it is definately necessary to prevent further harm. Orwell has a number of reasons that justify killing the elephant. He has to shoot the elephant because the elephant is a danger to the villagers, he is an authority figure, and for his own safety.

First, Orwell hesitates several times before he takes aim at the elephant. It was never his will to kill the elephant. Orwell states, “ I had no intention of shooting the elephant- I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary- and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you.” Also when he saw the elephant his first reaction was that it should not be shot. Orwell states, “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.” (Orwell, 186) He states that the elephant is a very expensive animal and that its work is very important to the Burmese population and the family that owns it. Orwell watches the elephant and wants yet another reason to pull the trigger. He makes sure it does not turn savage and even states that it looked no more dangerous than a cow.

The main reason Orwell regrets shooting the elephant is because of his own pride. He feels that he allowed the crowd to control his actions and he shot the elephant to show his authority and to gain respect. “For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him” (Orwell, 186)...
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