Bound by the chains of imperialism, Orwell’s helpless situation led him to be overwhelmed by the guilt of killing an elephant. He displayed his guilt and helplessness through the use of juxtaposition, metaphors, similes, imagery, and symbols.
Pressured by the Burman people and his desire to fulfill his duties as a policeman, Orwell made the decision to shoot the elephant.
Helpless and coerced, he pulled the trigger. Immediately, Orwell felt overwhelming guilt about killing the elephant. He described the elephant as dying, very slowly and in great agony(Orwell 1105). Orwell was pressured to kill the elephant in the first place, which made the slow death even harder for him. At one point, the death was so difficult for him to watch that he could not stand it any longer and went away(Orwell 1105). This example shows not only his helplessness and lack of control, but his character because he pitied the elephant and felt guilty for his actions.
The elephant itself was a symbol of the Burmese people and a metaphor for an earthquake. Both the Burmese people and the elephant were wild, uncontrollable, and unwieldy. Just like how the Burmese people defied british rule, the elephant was uncontrollable as well. In using the elephant as a symbol for the Burmese people, Orwell in a way satirizes the situation. This is a form of comic relief. Orwell described the final fall of the elephant as crash that seemed to shake the ground even where [he] lay(Orwell 1105). This metaphor shows how the elephant falling was like an earthquake: unplanned and monumental. This contributes to the initial guilt felt by Orwell because it was a situation inflicted by himself.
The use of the simile the thick blood welled out of him like red velvet(Orwell 1105) painted a picture in the minds of readers a gruesome and sorrowful scene. This scene was only discussed for a few detailed sentences. This was likely due to the amount of detail needed to build suspense for the scene. In yet another simile, he described the sheer size of the animal. He depicted the elephant to seem to tower like a huge rock toppling(Orwell 1105). This descriptive diction compares the elephant to a great rock. It shows how the elephant was helpless and harmless just like a rock right before its death. This description may come from Orwell’s guilt from killing something that could not even defend itself.
The simile of the elephant seeming to tower upward like a huge rock toppling(Orwell 1105) can also be categorized under the stylistic device imagery. In this important scene, Orwell used descriptive words to make the reader feel like they actually witnessed this event. Words like huge rock and topple not only compare the elephant to other things, but help the reader grasp the situation by using every day vocabulary. This shows Orwell’s attitude toward the elephants death because of how much detail he put into each of the sentences regarding the elephants death.
Orwell continually used juxtaposition to display his emotions in the three paragraphs. In an example of both juxtaposition and simile, Orwell described the dying elephants trunk reaching skywards like a tree (Orwell 1105). In this sentence, he contrasts the elephant’s trunk and the tree. By doing this, he shows empathy and detail for the death of the elephant. In another example of simile and juxtaposition, Orwell depicted the elephant in its final stages as having thick blood [welling] out of him like red velvet (Orwell 1105).
In this example, he contradicts(?) the blood of the elephant and the velvet-like look of how it flowed. Although he only described the actual death of the elephant in a few sentences, the great attention to detail showed how much he cared and how guilty he felt of inflicting its death.
All in all, the narrator George Orwell used stylistic devices and rhetorical strategies to convey his attitude toward shooting an elephant. His guilt was evident through his various writing strategies.