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Mohandas Ghandi's Defending Non Violent Resistance speech and George Orwell's "shooting and elephant"

By dgo14 Mar 30, 2003 933 Words
Wide spectrums of attitudes arise when comparing and contrasting the writings of Gandhi and George Orwell. The oppressive British system of government in India provides the motive for Gandhi's "Defending Nonviolent Resistance" speech. George Orwell conveys peevishness of the same system--the British government by the shooting of an elephant and the repercussions of the event. The overall attitude in Orwell's Shooting an Elephant leans toward resentment of both government and murder, while the overall attitude in Gandhi's Defending Nonviolent Resistance inclines toward the uprising of government and nonviolent protest. Both writers share attitudes, however both writers convey opposing attitudes towards their government.

Mohandas Gandhi emphasizes the use of non-violence in his speech and employs the principle of "spiritual achieve political goals through non-violent resistance."(Gandhi 975) Gandhi's essay accents the need for Indian freedom. Gandhi's attitude stressed for the British system of government to change. Gandhi states the overall attitude of the essay, "I wanted to avoid violence, I want to avoid violence. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed." (Gandhi 976) Gandhi writes this to state his belief in nonviolent forms of rebellion. Instead, Gandhi's belief that peaceful measures harvest a greater impact on the people creates a greater outcome. Gandhi decides to go against the government of the land, the British government. Gandhi states, "But I had to make my choice. I had either to submit to a system which I considered had done an irreparable harm to my country, or incur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth, when they understood the truth from my lips" (Gandhi 976). Clearly, Gandhi's attitude towards British rule played into a negative path of rebellion which eventually led to his arrest and future Indian independence.

George Orwell does not stir up any rebellions with the government; however, Orwell plays a major role in British Government in India. "I was subdivisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter" states Orwell (Orwell 939). Even though Orwell ranks highly in the British system, as did Gandhi at one time, Orwell and Gandhi do not agree with the system they work for. Proof of Orwell's sentiment, "In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters" (940) provides the reader with Orwell's attitude towards government. Although Orwell does not comply with the system, Orwell continues to work under the government.

Gandhi states many times that the system of rule does not justify the people in India. Insight into many historical events, provided in Gandhi's speech allows the reader to view great details of the continuing pressures of Indian injustice. Gandhi addresses his first moment of resentment into the British system, "The first shock came in the shape of the Rowlatt Act, a law designed to rob the people of all real freedom"(Gandhi 977). The tone of the passage begins to rise into disaffection from this moment forward. Later in the speech, Gandhi directly accuses the British system, " I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically" (Gandhi 978). Gandhi's attitude towards the system causes him to stir up a rebellion and thus, go upon a judge to suffer a sentence of six years in prison.

Orwell and Gandhi contrast in attitudes when they separate into different sides of the system. Gandhi realizes the British rule in India only oppresses his people, while Orwell is a police officer that essentially performs any and all tasks assigned to him, regardless of virtue or morality. When Orwell solves the problem of shooting a ravaging elephant, the British government proudly acknowledges the act. "Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed," writes Orwell (Orwell 945). Orwell, in many ways, disagrees with shooting, but in the end of the story, Orwell writes, "I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool"(Orwell 945). Orwell's attitude is somewhat hypocritical because he does not agree with the killing, but does it anyway so he can please his superiors. Gandhi, who once worked successfully as a servant to the British government, comes to a conclusion that the system can no longer oppress his people. Gandhi turns into a political, spiritual leader in the cause to gain Indian freedom and independence. Gandhi goes before a judge and clearly states his reasons why the judge and the system must go. Gandhi tells the judge, "if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal" (Gandhi 979).

The speech made by Mohandas Gandhi before a judge, under the British system, speaks for itself. Gandhi provides reasons why the system failed to suit the needs of his people. George Orwell writes about the innocent, yet mandated shooting of an elephant, brought upon by the system. Both writers describe their events with comparing and contrasting attitudes. When comparing the attitudes Gandhi who at one time worked under the system with full allegiance, goes before the system and rejects it completely, while Orwell works under the system but does not question it under authority. When contrasting their overall attitudes towards the system, Orwell continues to work as a British official, but deep down inside, knows the oppressive nature of the system. Orwell's attitude is hypocritical, while Gandhi chooses to fight the system.

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