George Orwell - Shooting an elephant review

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The short story ”Shooting an Elephant” is a story of drama, imperialism and egotistical actions. It was compiled by George Orwell in the year 1936. In this essay I will look into why he decided to shoot the elephant. I will also discuss his attitude towards the native people of Burma as well as his own position in the country.

He works in a town called Moulmein. A town colonised by Britain at the time. Due to him working as a soldier the natives express disdain towards him. The people don’t show it directly by assaulting him or anything like that but rather in a passive aggressive manner where they laugh at him whilst refereeing games for example. This affects him badly and he starts to hate his job and the position he’s in as a white European male in a colonized country. He feels the job as an officer is an impossible task where he gains no respect in return and therefor he tries to quit several times. He also experience the affect imperialism has on the Burmese people and feels ashamed over it.

The story takes a turn as one day a tame elephant escapes from it’s chains thus resulting in the death of an Indian man of Dravidian descent. He arrives at the scene unarmed and after a while asks a friend if he could bring him an elephant rifle. After a lot of hesitation he decides to shoot the elephant and I will share my thoughts on why I think he did this.

Firstly when he met the elephant, he found out that the elephant was no longer a threat as it was peacefully eating plants. So in his own mind he didn’t really want to shoot it for two reasons. One being that it belonged to someone and that it was worth a lot of money. Two being that it was an innocent animal and no longer a threat. The real reason he shot the elephant was due to the natives around him. Thousands of natives had gathered around him all anticipating the shooting of the elephant. He as an officer had a tough guy image to portray and he didn’t want to come across as soft. He had to choose between his mission as an officer and the life of an innocent animal. This made it very difficult for him to choose.

He had to save himself from being humiliated because this is really what it came down to. His ego. He felt that shooting the elephant would be equivalent to murder but after firing three shots into the heart of the elephant, it dies.

Orwells thoughts when it came to the natives was very complicated because in the first sentence the narrator writes “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by a large number of people. The only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happened to me” What I believe he meant by this was that the people always had a hatred towards him due to two things. Firstly due to his role as an officer and secondly his role as a white man in a colonized Asian country. Those two things made him important enough to hate for the first time in his life. Everytime he wanted to “change” something he was stopped by the people who hated him and shutdown by the rules he had to follow. This made his stay in Burma a very hard one as he was very young and lacked the education and experience to deal with it. He also at one time said that he always tried to hide his face with a mask where his face grew to fit it because he did not want to be laughed at which is another reason I believe it all came down to ego.

Lastly in my opinion, Orwell was always a man of moral. Despite having an ego he always tried to do the right thing by everyone. He was not a selfish man despite performing a ve...

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Sharmaarke Osman [2019-07-08]   George Orwell - Shooting an elephant review
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=60542 [2019-08-19]

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