'Shooting an Elephant': Study Questions

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“Shooting an Elephant” study questions
1. Describe the nature of the voice in the opening paragraph. Is there any humor and irony?
2. You already came up with some ideas about Orwell’s attitude toward imperialism, and now it is time to come up with some examples from the text.
3. What is Orwell’s attitude toward the native people? You also already brainstormed on that, but where in the text do you see examples of Orwell’s attitude towards the native people?
- Orwell feels hated by the Indian people, but he still wants to impress them by shooting the elephant.
4. Find examples of Orwell’s attitude towards his own position in Burma.
5. In the second paragraph, what is suggested by the qualifiers “and secretly, of course” and “if you can catch him off duty”?
6. Note Orwell’s language in paragraph 5. What are the rhetorical effects of “merely ravaging their homes” and “as it would be to an English crowd.”
7. In paragraph 6 Orwell states, “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.” Why, then, does he decide to shoot the elephant? Refer to specifics from the text.
- He’s under pressure and decides to do it anyway. Maybe because he thinks of his friend who does anything, to become accepted by the native people. He decides to follow the same example and do the same to complete the native people’s wish.
8. In paragraph 11 Orwell states, “At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees.” Explain what such a characterization of the time period suggests about Orwell.
9. Compare and contrast the description of the killing of the elephant as related in paragraphs 10-13 with that of the killing of the Indian as related in paragraph 4. Consider the rhetorical purpose of the descriptions.
10. The final paragraph presents Europeans’ views of the elephant killing. Explain the differences.
11. Discuss Orwell’s tone and attitude in the final paragraph.

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