A sub-divisional police officer of Moulemein, a town in lower Burma, Orwell takes a seemingly minor incident-shooting an elephant that has caused destruction throughout the town-and uses it to illustrate the evils of imperialism. Through the use of specific examples and straightforward, clear language, Orwell concludes that “when the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys.”
Orwell is introduced to the readers as feeling out of place and futile in a place where “anti-European feeling was very bitter” (125).
He employs specific examples to illustrate the tormenting of Europeans by the Burmese people; in one instance, he is tripped by a Burman man while playing football, and the crowd proceeds to roar with “hideous laughter” (125).
Orwell clearly displays his hatred for the Burmese, particularly the young Buddhist priests, who were the “worst of all” (125), and his feeling of helplessness as an official who was supposed to be able to control them. Ironically, although he is supposed be of a high position in the town, he is constantly jeered at and insulted by those over whom he should have power.
Despite his antipathy towards the Burmese people, however, Orwell also sympathizes with him. In a very explicit, straightforward passage, he describes his hatred for imperialism. In a plain cumulative sentence, Orwell states that “imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.” There is no ornate diction and no sophisticated syntax; he is explicitly stating his abhorrence of imperialism. He goes on to use detailed imagery to describe the “dirty work of [the] Empire” (126)-prisoners in stinking cages, grey faces of convicts, and scarred buttocks of men who had been flocked with bamboo appeal to the emotions of the reader and allow them to understand Orwell’s utter hatred of imperialism. Even with this hatred, however, Orwell is torn between his contempt for the tyrants and the tyrannized. He claims to be “all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors” (126), but this assertion only serves to further reveal his ambivalence; he is an oppressor, and he is therefore against himself. His parallels this statement by affirming that the torture he witnessed “oppressed [him] with an intolerable sense of guilt (126).
... morals, and his duty to his country. Orwell demonstrates his perspectives and feelings about imperialism. and its effects on his duty to the ... . He justifies his actions, driven by the instigation of the Burmese. Orwell also feels forced by the natives to kill the elephant ...
By establishing himself as both one who oppresses and one who is oppressed, Orwell further illustrates his torn mindset. He ends this passage with a generalization, claiming that feelings of ambivalence such as his are normal by-products of imperialism.
Through his hatred for his own position and his ambivalence towards the Burmese and the British, Orwell illustrates his obligation to both groups of people. He is employed as a tool for the British to control their conquests and a tool for the Burmese to achieve what they want. Although he does not want to shoot the elephant, he is pressured by the people around him. The elephant comes to symbolizes British imperialism and reflect Orwell’s ambivalence; it is dying, but it can’t move-just as British imperialism dies shortly thereafter.
The seventh paragraph of Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” marks a change in consciousness of the narrator.
Prior to Orwell’s realization, he approaches the elephant and knows “with perfect certainty” (127) that he should not shoot it. He remarks that the animal looks peaceful and “no more dangerous than a cow” (127); subsequently, he decides that he will watch the elephant for a moment, make sure that it did not become savage again, and go home. However, Orwell then looks at the crowd of two thousand around him and feels the mounting pressure that the Burmese people are placing on him to shoot the elephant. By later repeating “crowd” and “two-thousand,” he ironically emphasizes the majority that the Burmese, a supposed minority, have over him, the representation of the white majority and superior power. The Burmese, Orwell states, are “watching [him] as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick” (127).
... the Burmese, yet perfectly understand why they despise him. When confronted with the decision of whether or not to shoot the elephant, Orwell ... is nothing more than a puppet: Here I was, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native ... to be a perfectly adequate form of government. Unfortunately, these people are usually the ones who never experience Imperialism firsthand. The ...
He is the possessor of the “magical rifle” (127), able to implement the changes that the Burmese people desire-specifically, killing the elephant. Ironically, however, he possesses this magical tool but is himself dominated by the two thousand wills and the pressure they exert upon him.
It is at this moment, with the two thousand pressuring wills around him, that Orwell has an epiphany. He characterizes himself as an “absurd puppet” (127) and a “hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib” (127).
He also describes the hollowness of the white man’s supposed control in the East and the irony of his situation-he is the white man holding a gun in front of the crowd of natives, a typical stereotype, yet he is the one being controlled. As he states, “when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys” (127).
Through Orwell’s use of metaphor, the reader is able to invoke an image of the white man as a puppet whose strings are being simultaneously pulled by a “sea of yellow faces” (127), his will totally out of his control.
Orwell goes on to explain that the goal of the white man in the East is to struggle not to be laughed at by the natives. He asserts that “[the white man] wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it” (127); in other words, he protects himself by constantly trying to please the natives, and, having done it for so long, it is second nature to him now. Although he compares himself to a “sahib” (127), he does not have control over the Burmese people; in fact, he is at their will. He does not wish to shoot the “grandmotherly” elephant, but he is forced to do so by the two thousand wills around him.
In “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell illustrates the futility of imperialism by focusing on a minor incident-shooting an elephant while serving as a sub-divisional police officer in Burma.
Orwell draws the death of the elephant out in three long paragrahs with long, periodic sentences. He says, “In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant” (130), drawing out the sentence with four clauses and two modifiers; this grammatical structure serves to mirror his guilt and the pain he feels over shooting the elephant. The Burmese people responded to its shooting with a “devilish roar of glee” (130), after having forced him to do something that he did not want to do. The inner torment that Orwell undergoes as a result of his being forced to shoot the elephant is reflected in his style; he repeats the words “tortured,” “dreadful,” and “agony.” Orwell also uses figurative language to describe the elephant as “immensely old,” “grandmotherly,” and “senile,” emphasizing his guilt over killing an animal that seems as if it can cause no harm.
... right and it gave me sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant (109). Throughout the essay Orwell discuss his two alternating voices that are ... but of the faces that watch him. He said, a white man mustn t be freighted in front of natives (108). The ... but had broken loose. The only person who can control the elephant had went searching for the animal but had gone the ...
Through his description of the elephant’s death and the havoc that it wreaks, Orwell illustrates the fact that the elephant is a symbol of imperialism. He specifically chooses to use a large, powerful animal.