Shooting an Elephant Essay
Courage is being able to drown out the voices of others and stay true to one’s own morals. In the memoir Shooting An Elephant, George Orwell describes his time as a British Colonial police officer in Burma. While he is there he develops hatred for the British Empire and his actions, throughout the memoir are contrary to his beliefs. There are several events that take place in Shooting an Elephant that reveal Orwell’s character flaws. He lacks the ability to make decisions based on his own morals, refuses to utilize his power to act according to his values and fears humiliation, proving that he does not possess genuine courage. True courage is defined by one’s ability to not only possess strong values, but to stay true to those values under difficult circumstances.
Throughout the story, Orwell demonstrates his inability to act on his own morals. Orwell’s troubles begin when he takes a job as a British colonial police officer. Despite his bitter feelings toward imperialism, he accepts a position in Burma, where he is exposed to the effects that the British Empire has on its colonies. “I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing…Theoretically - and secretly, of course - I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make it clear.” Despite Orwell’s feelings, he does not quit his job as an officer. He is completely against the Empire he is serving, but refuses to do anything about it. He despises imperialism, but spends his days enforcing it. Throughout the story Orwell finds more and more reasons to quit his job, but does not. By not quitting his job, he is put in another situation where his morals are tested. Orwell, when faced with the challenge of shooting the elephant fails to follow his own morals, altering them to comply with the expectations of the Burmese. When the elephant goes “must” and becomes a threat to the community, it is his duty to assist step-in; but in this case, he contradicts his beliefs in doing so. “Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home…. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all.” Orwell proves that he does not possess genuine courage through him making decisions based off of influences other than his own. He carries a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, meaning his actions contradict his own values and beliefs. Throughout the story George Orwell reveals that he lacks true courage, as he allows the feelings of to others control his actions.
As a British colonial police officer, Orwell is given a great deal of power; however, his irresponsible use of this power displays his lack of courage. Despite the fact that Orwell is a police officer for the British Empire, he believes that the rules and laws the British are enforcing are cruel and unfair. Although he is a man of great power, he does nothing to stop the mistreatment of the Burmese. “In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed, faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos - all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt.” Orwell is a weak individual and is easily swayed by external influences. He pities the Burmese for the unfair treatment they receive from the British. Although he feels this way, he does nothing to stop the abuse. Furthermore, he enforces the British laws that he despises. Because of his weakness, he does not act according to his values, and continues to enforce the British Empire. By enforcing these very rules created by the Empire he despises, he is emerged into an ordeal in which he misuses his power again. George...
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