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Summary of Shooting an Elephant

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Summary of Shooting an Elephant

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  • May 2005
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"Shooting an Elephant," by George Orwell is a first person view on living and working as a European police officer in Moulmein, Lower Burma. There was a bit of tension between the locals and the foreign law enforcement since the British had taken over the country, so Orwell was not thought fondly of. The climax of this essay was when a otherwise tame elephant starts rampaging because is had gone into "must" a term used on page 118 that means in heat. The owner loses track of the animal in the night and the elephant finds its way back into the city, tearing up houses and eating food from the market while the tamer is long gone in pursuit of a shadow. When the elephant kills one of the locals, Orwill gets a gun; not to kill, but to protect. The once hateful crowd gets very eager, as their attention now is focused on Orwell thinking they are going to see some action. He points out, "They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching" (Orwell 120). He had never intended to hurt the animal, but with everyone watching, he felt as if he could not let them down, even though he knew that killing the elephant would mean the owner would loose a fortune in money. He compared the slaughter of the elephant to "destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery" (Orwell 120). I was disappointed when he decided to shoot the elephant because I had previously had no doubt that he was going to wait for the owner to come back, risking the disappointment of the crowd.

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