Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell - George Orwell Essay Example

“Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell deals with the evils of imperialism; Orwell uses metaphors to represent his feelings on imperialism, his inner conflict between his personal morals and his duty to his country - Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell introduction. Orwell demonstrates his outlook and feelings about imperialism; and how it effects his duty as to being a white man. The elephant and the British officer help prove that imperialism is a double-edge sword. Together, the soldier and the elephant turn this story into an attack on imperialism.

Orwell is taking part in imperialism by proving his power and dignity to the natives presenting imperialism, he is using the elephant as a symbol of imperialism, representing power of a wild animal, that has control over the village. In doing so, he leads to the understanding that the power behind imperialism is only as strong as its rulers. Orwell’s moral values are challenged, in different ways, ironically enough while he too was the tormenter.


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He is faced with a very important decision, whether or not he should shoot the elephant. If he does shoot the elephant he will be a hero to the people: if he decides not to shoot the elephant, he would be giving in to the imperial force behind the elephant which he finds so unfair and evil. If he lets the elephant go free and unharmed, the natives will laugh at him, and make him feel inferior for not being able to protect the village.

Orwell represents the elephant as a force, greater than he has the ability to kill. It takes him several shots to kill the elephant, and a prolonged period of time for the elephant to die. Orwell’s decision to kill the elephant is a direct result of oppression, he demonstrates that this oppression may go deeper than the average man would imagine, noticeably interfere even with the lives of the oppressors. The elephants is considered a the controlling force over Orwell, which is compared to that of an imperialist.

He justifies his actions, driven by the instigation of the Burmese, he also feels forced by the natives to kill the elephant. He also implies that the coolie killed by the elephant, represents the invasion of Burma by the British because, no one could predict the victims of the elephant just like they can not predict what will be the next move or next victim of the British will be. Since the coolie is killed, he is demonstrating a justifiable reason to kill the elephant.

He says, how the natives take on the role of imperialists, as they stand in a crowd behind him waiting for him to shoot the elephant, wanting only to use him to get the elephants meat and tusks. Orwell expresses his conflicting views regarding imperialism through three examples of cruelty: by his country, the Burmese, and by himself on the Burmese. Power is shown by Orwell, through the burden of service placed on him by England.

At the time, it may appear from the outside, he shows us that the officers were helping the Burmese, because they too were against oppressors. However, from the inside he shows, that they too were trying to take over other countries. Orwell speaks of how he is so against imperialism, but gives in to the natives by shooting the elephant to prove he is strong and to avoid shame. He implies that he does not want to be thought of as British, but he does not want to be thought to be the fool either.

Orwell makes his decision to shoot the elephant appear to be rational but, underneath it all he questions his actions, just as he questions those of the British. He despised both the British Empire and the Burmese as well, making everything harder and complex. Orwell shows that the elephant signifies imperialism because it is big and it was in control of the village as are the British, and it kills a coolie just like the British they do not care what they do to the people therefore, the slow demolition of the elephant must signify the slow fall of British Imperialism.

The value in the shooting of the elephant lies in how the event shows the different aspects of imperialism. The shooting of the elephant is the incident that reveals that imperialism cause damage on both parties in a imperialistic relation. The British officer, the assassin, acts as a symbol of the imperial country, while the elephant symbolizes the victim of imperialism.

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