Shooting an Elephant Essay

Mark MorrisonPage 1 Professor Bautista English 110 October 8, 2012 “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell In his essay “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell recounts a time in his life when as a British police officer in India, he was faced with the moral dilemma of having to shoot an elephant in order to save his pride. In the beginning of the essay, Orwell describes it as a time of tension and hostility. For example, if a European woman was seen walking alone in a bazaar she would be spit on. This shows that the Burmese people were very distrusting and resentful of the imperialistic rule of the British.

Their sentiments made Orwell an obvious target. Despite all these hostile feelings toward him and British rule, Orwell resents the British oppression and not the people of Burma. He feels that oppressing the Burmese people will cause him to feel guilt and hatred toward his job. One day, Orwell receives a phone call that an elephant is loose and running wild under the influence of “must. ” Eventually, he ends up face-to-face with the elephant, an elephant gun in his hand and a large crowd of Burrnese people right behind him. The dilemma here is that he never planned on killing the elephant in the first place.

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However, the crowd wanted a show. They expected Orwell follow through with their expectations. Now, he was left with the decision of letting the elephant live and risk being ridiculed by the crowd or killing the animal and saving his pride. The time in history when this story takes place can force someone like Orwell, a British police officer, to be forced with making difficult decisions in the course of everyday life. I do feel that his decision to resent his own British oppression against the Burmese people showed he maintains a greater sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Despite the hostility he felt from the Burmese people, he was always on their side. However, I do feel that his decision to kill the elephant to please the crowd was not a very responsible one. From this, he is showing that not only is he serving as an officer of the imperialistic rule of the British but he is also serving to the imperialistic rule of the crowd as well. He is trapped in a double bind-serving the needs of the oppressor and the oppressed at once. The elephant was killed to please the crowd, just as the Burmese people are ruled to satisfy the British thirst for cultural and economic supremacy.


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