Shooting an Elephant: A Study Guide

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Shooting an ElephantSarig T. Cohen
George Orwell is the author of “Shooting an Elephant”, a short story that uses the small incident of the murder of an elephant to portray the horrors of British Imperialism. Due to the fact that George Orwell writes a short story in the form of an essay, it contains a thesis, which is the argument about the nature of imperialism. The great thing about George Orwell’s essay is that the theme is represented throughout the plot and can be analyzed from any part of the story. This essay will discuss this thesis and how it is represented in Orwell’s short story by analyzing the literary devices used. The most influential literary devices used by George Orwell are metaphors, repetition and alliteration; others include anaphora and paradox. Right from the start Orwell mentions his hatred towards British imperialism, “I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.” There is no elaborate diction or sophisticated syntax. He explicitly states his loathing of imperialism. This is quite ironic since throughout the rest of the essay Orwell uses the symbol of the elephant as a metaphor for the fall of imperialism. As the big moment looms on Orwell, the reader can notice that he gets uneasy and nervous from the main event. This is noticeable from Orwell’s indecision; he begins to raise excuses for him not to shoot the elephant, “It is always unnerving to have a crowd following you.” Orwell puts the blame on the Burmese people stating that they are the cause for his hesitation. This is a direct implication towards British Imperialism since the “ruled” people were always blamed upon. Metaphors are used abundantly in this essay. Orwell shows the reader how metaphors can be used to compare two unrelated events with the same meanings. One of the strongest metaphors in this story is the elephant and its destructive path; it portrays British Imperialism and...
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