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 Rowel’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 goes 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. Non¦l’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. “l had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing… Theoretically – and secretly, of course – was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, hated it more bitterly than can perhaps make it clear. ” Despite Rowel’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 hem 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 would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home…. And suddenly 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 statement 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 hat 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 Rowel’s misuse of his power is demonstrated when he calls for the elephant rifle. The Barman’s are helpless against the elephant, providing Orwell with the power to handle the situation. “I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle… Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd… The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. ” Orwell is thrown into a situation where he has a decision to make.
He is the only person with a gun, and therefore the only person able to harm the elephant. He believes that the elephant should not be killed, and has the power to keep it alive. Instead, he misuses his power and shoots the elephant. Rowel’s misuse of his power illustrates his uncourageous nature. Rowel’s greatest character flaw is his undeniable fear Of being humiliated by the Burmese. During a game of football, the Burmese continue to deliberately ear down and injure Orwell due to the fact that they know he will not step up and protect himself.
Orwell fails to stand up for himself around the locals after being blatantly mistreated on several occasions because he fears embarrassment, resulting in him feeling humiliated. “When a nimble Barman tripped me up on the football field and the referee, a Barman, looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. ” Orwell is a minority, that is the bottom line and when you are the minority, you lack the courage to stand up for yourself due to the fear of humiliation. He feels powerless or out f his element, and in result is incapable of gathering enough true courage to stand up for himself.
In another instance, Rowel’s courage is tested when he is faced with shooting the elephant in front of thousands of Bursars. When George Orwell is first informed Of the elephant situation, his intentions are to observe the elephant’s behavior and to ensure that it does not cause harm to the Burmese. Little does he know that he is about to be thrust into the spotlight, as nearly two thousand Bursars follow him to the scene. The audience hinders his ability to do the right thing, as his mindset changes to void humiliation. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Bursars would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh… That would never do. ” George Orwell is under immense pressure during this time from the thousands of Barman eyes glaring at him. Orwell believes in the Bursars and wants more appreciation from them. Since the Bursars hate the British and Orwell is a British police officer, there is a great burden on
Orwell to please the natives to achieve his desired gratitude. Rowel’s values begin in the right place, but this external pressure causes them to alter because he is scared of humiliation. It is almost as if he cares more about being humiliated than doing his job. The audience hinders his ability to do the right thing, as his mindset changes to avoid humiliation. His lack of courage is demonstrated throughout the story as the natives easily push him around due to his overwhelming fear of humiliation. Genuine courage is the ability to act on one’s morals despite the external erasures around them.
In the memoir Shooting an Elephant, external pressures surround George Orwell. He is a British police officer in Burma. When he gets a call about an elephant running “must,” he must decide how to deal with the elephant. Throughout his memoir, there are several instances where his character flaws are portrayed. He is unable to act on his own morals, neglects to utilize his power to act according to his beliefs and he has an overwhelming fear of humiliation. Someone with courage is able to ignore externalities and act on what they believe is right.