Using symbolism, Orwell reveals the true impact of British occupancy of Burma and exposes the reality Of the empires imperialism, all while trying to justify taking a life. The elephant in Rowel’s essay acted as a symbol of the Burmese people. The animal “looked no more dangerous than a cow’ cows are known to be passive and possess calm traits much like the Buddhist population of Burma. Or-Nell saw himself as representing the British empire, regardless of whether he wanted to or not.
In a strange twist, the 2000 plus Bursars that came to watch the shooting represented the high ranking officials in the empire that controlled Orwell and many others. Orwell felt “it was a bit of fun to them, as t would be to an English crowd” (474) It was at that moment when Orwell saw himself as an “absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind” (475) Orwell had no desire to murder the beast, but he knew he could not back out.
The choice was no longer his; the colonizer had become the colonized. The slow death of the elephant represents Burma and how it has been ravaged by imperialism. Orwell shooting the elephant multiple times (in an effort to end its pain) is similar to how the British believed they were helping Burma progress, but in reality were causing more agony. Orwell as no stranger to Imperialism, nor was he a friend to it.
He “had already made up [his] mind that Imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner [he] chucked up [his] job and got out of it the better” (472) As someone, who witnessed many atrocities administered by the empire he served, Orwell was secretly “all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British” (472: He had laid eyes upon “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” (472) Orwell felt n overwhelming sense of shame working for a nation, who ideologies he did not agree with.
He was forced to suffer in silence. This guilt mixed with hatred of the locals made Orwell feel “that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts. (473) He described these horrific feelings as “normal by-products of imperialism” (473) Orwell claims very blatantly “he had no intention of shooting the elephant” (474) when he was ordered to deal with the rampaging elephant; he armed himself with a rifle “much too small to kill an elephant” (473) When laying eyes on the on the east for the first time, he knew the weapons he was armed with were not necessary claiming “I knew with perfect certainty that ought not to shoot him” (474).
As the pressure mounted Orwell, the two thousand plus Burmese proved their will to be too strong. Orwell betrayed his own morals and beliefs and did the unthinkable. In dealing with guilt, Orwell tried to justify his actions. He tried to convince himself “legally [he] had done the right thing for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it” (477) Orwell knew he truly felt bad about the shooting but could not bear more shame.
Orwell goes even further and says he is “glad that the collie had been killed; It put [him] legally in the right and it gave [him] a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant’ (477) this is contradictory for someone who is secretly all for the oppressed nation. Rowel’s symbolism demonstrated the wrongs of his nation Imperialism and in an attempt to justify his murder; Orwell uses his essay as a way to confess his wrongs.