Writing Assignment 3
9 April 2013
Rhetorical Analysis: “Shooting an Elephant”
In the essay entitled “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell writes, “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me” (Orwell, pg#). In this exert, not only does Orwell succeed in setting the mood and foreshadowing events to come, but he also introduces us to a protagonist of little experience and relative innocence. To expedite the process of connecting the story with his audience, Orwell chronicles his tale from a first-person point of view. In so doing, Orwell aims to induce the sympathies of his readers and guide their understanding, whether condemned or condoned, as to the reasoning behind his decision in “Shooting an Elephant.” The story is set in the 1920’s, when Orwell served as Assistant Superintendent in the British Imperial Police in Burma during a period of strong anti-European sentiment in the country. Though his sympathies and intellect are aligned with those of the Burmese, Orwell’s standing as an Englishman and his position with the authorities only serve to further alienate him from the citizenry and harbor negative public opinion. During an event when a labor elephant breaks free of its handlers and tramples a citizen to death, Orwell is charged with tracking the beast and putting it down. The author describes his conflictions with his task and tells us that upon finding the elephant in a more tranquil state, his resolve in following through with the sentence was even weaker. Here, we find the protagonist standing alone before a scrutinizing audience of thousands of onlookers. Orwell proceeds to shoot the elephant several times before leaving the scene, unable to end its life. Left to the whim of the emotionally charged mob, the animal is killed and stripped nearly to the bone mere hours after the event. In closing,...