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Summary Analysis George Orwell works as the sub-divisional police officer of Moulmein, a town in the British colony of Burma.
Because he is, like the rest of the English, a military occupier, he is hated by much of the village. Though the Burmese never stage a full revolt, they express their disgust by harassing Europeans at every opportunity.
Burmese trip Orwell during soccer games and hurl insults at him as he walks down the street. The young Buddhist priests torment him the most. From the outset, Orwell establishes that the power dynamics in colonial Burma are far from black-and-white.
While he holds symbolic authority and military supremacy, Orwell is still powerless to stop the jibes and abuse he receives from oppressed Burmese. He has yet to understand that the British empire is waning, and will soon be replaced with even worse regimes. However, while Orwell considers the empire an unconscionable tyranny, he still hates the insolent Burmese who torment him.
This conflicted mindset is typical of officers in the British Raj, he explains. His morality staunchly opposes the abuses that result from empire and his own role in that empire, but he is unable to overcome his visceral urge to avenge the indignities he suffers at the hands of the Burmese.
His knee-jerk resentment at being humiliated—coupled with an implied sense that those humiliating him should see him as powerful and their better—seems to be as powerful as his higher-order ethics.
Active Themes One day, a minor incident takes places that gives Orwell insight into the true nature of imperialism and the reasons behind it. He receives a call from another policeman, informing him that a rogue elephant has been causing damage in the town.
Orwell heads toward the affected area. The Burmese have been unable to restrain the elephant. On its rampage, the elephant has destroyed public and private property and killed livestock. Orwell is able to better understand imperialism through his run-in with the elephant because the elephant serves as a symbol of colonialism.
For example, much like the Burmese who have been colonized and who abuse Orwell, the elephant has been provoked to destructive behavior by being oppressed. He tries to figure out the state of affairs, but, as is common in his experience of Asia, he finds that the story makes less and less sense the more he learns about it.
The mutilated corpse appears to have been in excruciating pain. Orwell orders a subordinate to bring him a gun strong enough to shoot an elephant.
Evidently, colonialism and the power dynamics it entails are too convoluted to be contained within a single straightforward point of view. Orwell walks to the field, and a large group from the neighborhood follows him.
The townspeople, who were previously uninterested in the destructive elephant, have seen the gun and are excited to see the beast shot.
Orwell feels uncomfortable—he had not planned to shoot the elephant, and requested the rifle only for self-defense. Once again, the Burmese appear to wield power over Orwell, subverting the colonial hierarchy.
Active Themes The crowd reaches the rice paddies, and Orwell spots the elephant standing next to the road. The animal is calmly eating grass. He makes up his mind to simply watch the elephant to make sure it does not become aggressive again, and does not plan on harming it.
Just as he empathizes with the oppressed Burmese, Orwell recognizes that the elephant is a peaceful creature that has been driven to rebellion by its mistreatment. Because it is both a harmless animal and a valuable piece of property, it is clear that there is no ethical or practical reason to hurt the elephant.
Note that for the British all of Burma was essentially a valuable piece of property—another metaphorical link between the elephant and colonialism.
Active Themes However, after he makes this decision, Orwell glances back at the crowd behind him. Orwell feels as though he is a magician tasked with entertaining them, and realizes that he is now compelled to shoot the elephant.
Orwell reneges on his ethical and practical conclusions almost as quickly as he makes them. By being placed in front of a crowd, Orwell has been forced to take on a performative persona that makes him act counter to every reasonable impulse he has.
Orwell, the imperialist, cannot do anything other than what the Burmese expect him to do. He entertains the possibility of doing nothing and letting the elephant live, but concludes that this would make the crowd laugh at him.
His entire mission as a colonialist, he says, is not to be laughed at—thus, sparing the elephant is not an option. In this crucial moment of the story, Orwell articulates the paradox of colonialism.Need help with “Shooting an Elephant” in George Orwell's Shooting an Elephant?
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In the essay “Shooting an Elephant” George Orwell argues that imperialism ruins and hurts not just a countries’ economic, cultural and social structure, but has other far reaching consequences; oppression undermines the psychological, emotional and behavioral development of mankind.
Orwell served his country, the British Empire, in . Free Shooting an Elephant papers, essays, and research papers. My Account. Your search returned over essays for Lots of people are born with some deformity or another, but none such as the case of John Merrick, in other words, ‘The Elephant Man’ who was given this name because he was so deformed he resembled an extremely .
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