Shooting an Elephant
Choices Between Right and Wrong in George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant
Shooting an Elephant AREDE
Writer George Orwell, in his narrative essay, “Shooting an Elephant”, describes a police officer, in Burma, shooting an elephant and his internal struggle with the shooting of it. Orwell’s purpose is to create duality and emphasize the choices between right and wrong. He uses a contradictory tone in order to create similar feelings in his readers. His use of narrative structure helps readers to get in his character’s head and better see the duality of human nature when choosing between right and wrong. In the exposition, we learn the split personality of the main character. He is a police officer for the British Empire, yet he thought that “imperialism was an evil thing”. But, on the other hand of the other hand, he says that he wants to gouge a Buddist priest(one of the Burmese people). This shows how he goes back and forth, trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong. He doesn’t know wether the British are better, or the taunting Burmese. And we as readers get a glimpse inside his head to see this battle.
Another great example of the duality in the narritive structure is in the rising action. It starts when he is having an internal battle about shooting the elephant. “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him….suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all….I had got to shoot the elephant….But I did not want to shoot the elephant….It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him.” His internal battle about shooting the elephant adds to the duality if the piece. He does not know what is right or wrong. Is it right to shoot the elephant, or wrong? Orwell’s narrative structure lets us in the character’s head so we can see this battle. Finally, we see all of the European duality in the dénouement. The older cops said that he did the right thing, the younger ones said, “it was a…shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie because an elephant was worth more than any…Coringhee coolie.”
Readers also see the main character’s internal conflict with whether it was right or not to kill the elephant. He tries to justify it by saying, “I was glad that the collie had been killed; it put me legally in the right, and gave me sufficient pretex for shooting the elephant.” But, his moral conscious still thinks it is wrong because the last sentence of the essay says, “…I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.” So, even at the end of the narrative piece, he is still struggling with whether it was right or not to shoot the elephant. And with the narrative structure of the essay, we are able to see that. Orwell allows us inside the character’s head with his narrative essay. If it was a normal essay, we wouldn’t get the same effect of being inside the characters mind and seeing his internal struggles. So, through his narrative structure, Orwell clearly conveyed duality and the struggle between what is right and what is wrong.
Review of Shooting an Elephant, a Biography by George Orwell
George Orwell’s autobiography “Shooting an Elephant” addresses the many perspectives on the dehumanizing effects of British imperialism. Many people have turned into animals because of society has devoured the humanity of the colonizers and helps to devoid the dignity understood through the actions of the Burmese people. A first, Orwell doesn’t want to shoot the elephant he followed. However, the he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself so powerless and controlled by the Burma peoples’ expectations, he shoots an elephant that is also “powerless to move.” Orwell uses symbolism, diction, and imagery to discuss how the evil of imperialism dehumanizes people of society.
Orwell uses symbolism to represent the slow downfall of the British empire who must live up to the expectations of the Burmese people. paragraph 7, Orwell states, “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece: but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.” Orwell, the narrator and a British officer, is playing a role of the person who is expected to kill the now innocent elephant. The natives expect him to kill the elephant as they watch him draw closer to it. Orwell’s conscience is telling him that he shouldn’t do kill the elephant for it would be “murder” if he did. However, Orwell is controlled by the natives as he has become “an absurd puppet.” In order to appease the natives, Orwell “wears a mask” and “his face grows to fit it” when he makes the decision to shoot the elephant. Orwell’s dilemma exemplifies the decision the British empire have to make in whether they are controlling the Burmese or the Burmese is controlling the British. Orwell’s decision shows that the British empire is merely controlled by the people of Burma and that imperialism is only there to fulfill the expectations of the Burmese people. He kills the elephant to avoid looking like a fool, however, he reveals himself a fool. His lack of authority reveals that he only acts because he feels compelled to act, not because of his inner conviction. This lack of authority is what makes the British empire slowly fall and weaken. In paragraph 11, Orwell says, “At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs and head drooping.” The elephant itself represents the imperialistic British empire and the people it has conquered. His death at Orwell’s hands shows that the downfall of the weakened British empire at the hands of its own officials. As the elephant “climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright” the British empire also was weakened but desperately climbed back on its “feet” to attempt to keep its imperialistic ways. The imperialistic ideology has been outdated as the Burmese people are the ones controlling and the British empire is trying to control the Burmese. The British empire’s influence didn’t come quickly, but was the result of various outbursts made by its people throughout the empire.
Orwell uses imagery to illustrate the animals the Burmese people have become due to the imperialistic ways of the British. He describes the plight of the “wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts…” Prisoners in Burma were confined in jail cells. They were treated as animals, controlled by the British imperial officers of Burma. Animals are usually confined to a specific area and these prisoners were confined to their jail cells. Controlled by the British officers, these prisoners have been confined to their “stinking cages” as the officers treat them like animals ultimately dehumanizing them. The prisoners have “cowed faces” because it’s just another day in their cages, serving the time for the crime they committed. These prisoners are dehumanized because they are being controlled. To dehumanize someone, one must strip the human qualities away from a person which includes individuality. Individuality is what makes a person human and when these prisoners are controlled and confined, they don’t have human qualities, they have nothing. This process makes the prisoners into animals, emotionless with only “cowed faces.” Orwell also goes on to say that many Burmese people are “evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.” Orwell dehumanizes the Burma people when he calls them “evil-spirited beasts.” Beasts are dangerous large four foot animals. According to Orwell, the Burmese aren’t people, but rather dangerous animals “who tried to make” his job “impossible.” The danger of these “beasts” is that they target British officers as bait, waiting for the right moment to mess with them whether it be trip them up a football field or mock them which makes the officers’ job merely impossible. In order to tame these “beasts” the British must conquer the Burmese, so they put them into “stinking cages” because mocking actions are a crime to the British. Ironically, these taming methods do not work because the “evil-spirited beasts” control the British officers. As Orwell is struggling to decide if he shoot the elephant or not, the “beasts” are expecting him to do it. Pressured, he shoots at the elephant or rather the British empire. This makes the elephant/British empire slowly fall as Orwell hears “devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd.” When the British empire is controlled, it is then stripped away of its own authority and what makes it empire, ultimately turning the British empire into an “animal.”
Through diction Orwell illustrates just how animalistic in nature the Burmese have become. In the opening paragraph, Orwell states, “As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.” Usually, animals hunt and target its bait that it will eat. Predators go after its prey when they feel that the time is right or “whenever it seemed safe to do so.” Predators sneak up on its bait, waiting for the right time to strike. The Burmese people target British officers like Orwell because they don’t like them, in fact, they hate the British. The Burmese people have turned into animals, hunting down British imperial officers as bait. When the Burmese found Orwell as their target, “the insults hooted after me” as if they were chasing Orwell as the catch. Owls normally hoot to communicate with one another or declare its territory. The Burmese are communicating with one another that their prey is Orwell and that they’re declaring him as their prey. According to Orwell, the Burmese have essentially turned into owl-like creatures, who communicate with one another by hooting insults at him. When these owls declared Orwell as their prey, “a nimble man tripped me up on the football field.” Nimble creatures are swift in their vast movements. Humans are usually not faster than nimble creatures such as cheetahs or lions. Prey don’t realize the creature’s actions until they have been acted upon and it’s too late. The Burmese are animals and exemplify animalistic traits that no humans necessarily have.
The evil of imperialism is when a government controls the people it has conquered, which deprives them of their human qualities. Depriving one of their human qualities is to dehumanize them, stripping away their individuality. In modern societies, many people are being stripped away of their individuality because of the expectations others have of them such as how to dress, how to act in public, and just how to present themselves to others. This controls a person, making them less of a human and more of an animal. Humans are not controlled but animals are. Society today, is filled with animals trying to control one another.
The Impact of Rediscovery in Shooting an Elephant, an essay by George Orwell
“Rediscovery can be confronting, painful and at times, empowering.”
How have your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own choosing presented the impact of rediscovery?
An emotionally confronting and provocative discovery serves as a catalyst for an individual to rediscover. This catalyst can lead an individual to be introspective, which leads to the re-evaluation of lost or forgotten memories and experiences. Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ explores the way the protagonist Prospero rekindles his desire for vengeance when talking of his past, and leads him on a journey of discovery towards the values of compassion and reconciliation (virtuous). George Orwell’s ‘Shooting an Elephant’ represents the ways new perspectives about the familiar shape ones identity even when faced by conflicting and controlling cultural forces.
A discovery of new ways of thinking about politics, morality and society reflects the importance of values such as inquiry, humility, compassion and reconciliation. Shakespeare was writing in a period of new discoveries and uncertainties: challenges to traditional ways of thinking through the rediscovery of the Ancient Greek and Roman literature, philosophy and fascination with the human body and mind. He also connects authentically to the age of exploration and Montaigne’s ‘noble savage’, through the sea voyage and Caliban respectively. Shakespeare extols the humanist virtue of ‘philanthropia’ – love of humanity. His villains are always are individualists, motivated primarily by egotism. This is also seen through Prospero as he epitomises Renaissance Christian Humanist thought: ‘Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury do I take.’ This influences the discoveries made in the play by most of them happening in a way that is transformative for every character. The Tempest is a hybrid mix of revenge tragedy, comedy and romance, which reflects the complexity of the human condition, and the five acts are subverted into rediscovery (I), new and provocative discoveries from different perspectives (II), challenging discoveries (III), journey to self-discovery (IV), self-discovery and transformation (V). However, there is no closure as Prospero admits that he needs to remind himself not to succumb to his passions, Antonio is unrepentant and Caliban is questionably chastened and contrite – ‘I’ll be wise hereafter/and seek for grace.’
The experience of a sudden or unexpected event can lead to a process of discovery. This process acts as a catalyst for an evaluation of the impact of change, leading to new discoveries. ‘Shooting an Elephant’ by George Orwell explores the concept of rediscovery by having the persona experience a cataclysmic experience. The discovery made is confronting and is a direct reflection of the writers past. Shooting an Elephant was published in 1936, but was influenced through the period Orwell lived as a policeman in Burma. Since Orwell lived and worked in Burma the text can be viewed as a direct representation of what his interpretation is on Burmese society. Significant discoveries are made in this text through the persona undergoing an internal deliberation, which Orwell has represented this discovery through visual imagery. “The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued”.
When confronted with an emotionally provocative issue it ascribes a form of discovery. Shakespeare explores this in The Tempest, through Prospero’s rediscovery of humanity. This rediscovery is initiated after “Prospero observ [es]” in Act 5 and confronts the individuals he was extracting upon frozen in time. This confrontation forces Prospero to introspect, which Shakespeare illustrates through a soliloquy. Through the soliloquy Shakespeare expressively exposes Prospero’s emotions and process of introspection to the audience as evident by “This thing of darkness I acknowledge as mine.” By conveying Prospero’s acceptance of his actions, Shakespeare illustrates a change in Prospero’s character, from being vindictive to virtuous. This is further highlighted through, “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.” Through the alliteration of “v” and the juxtaposition of “virtue” & “vengeance” Shakespeare promulgates the change in Prospero, as being the same man, but having changed. Thus, through Prospero Shakespeare illustrates how due to the provocative and spontaneous nature of confronting circumstances, individuals are forced to introspect and consequently are able to rediscover a lost or concealed emotional connection.
Similarly, George Orwell, in his essay, Shooting an Elephant, further exemplifies how the process of rediscovery is often initiated through confronting circumstances. In the essay the persona discovers that he has no discretionary choice in the matter of killing the elephant. However through this the persona rediscovers the futility of English rule. The persona initially in the essay has already acknowledged this “I was hated by large numbers of people”. Nevertheless the persona slowly rediscovers the ineffectuality of ruling over the Burmese people. This is evident through the recurring motif of the white men pretending to be superior. “Seemingly the leading actor of the piece” “Only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”. Orwell has the persona make the rediscovery at a time where he has no other choice but to shoot the Elephant, which can be seen as the trigger. “I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all”.
Through having the characters/persona introspect, the writers represent rediscovery as being confronting, painful and empowering. Both characters discover the underlying truth, which then leads to a transformation of their identity and thought process, facilitating a new set of values/rediscovery of values and new understandings.
The Use Of Stylistic Devices In Shooting An Elephant By George Orwell
In George Orwell’s literary composition, “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell uses stylistic devices and rhetorical strategies in order to convey his attitude toward British imperialism, fear of humiliation and Colonial resentment.
George Orwell was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic, which was born in Bengal, India in 1903. During his middle years instead of attending university, Orwell decided to take a job in lower Burma with the Indian Imperial Police. Subsequently, he decided to write about his experience in a literary composition, “Shooting an elephant.” In this essay, Orwell, the narrator, recites the time when he was working as a colonial policeman in lower Burma and was mocked by numerous local people. One of the primary events in the story occurs when the narrator finds out that an elephant has been demolishing a bazaar, he arrives at the scene and prepares himself to kill the animal. The police officer realizes that the only way to get out of the situation is to exterminate the animal because otherwise he will be laughed at and called weak. Thereafter, Orwell shoots the elephant, which suffers an agonizing death. Afterwards, the narrator perceives that he has committed a mistake because he was peer pressured and even quotes: “I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking fool.” An example when Orwell used the ability to use language effectively in order to divulge his attitude towards British imperialism was when he said: “For all that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.”
This sentence proves that Orwell did not support communism. As well as Orwell was a splendid writer and stirring figure he was an idealist and was a democratic socialist. He stated this fact habitually throughout his life. From Orwell’s perspective, all political theories and ideologies were despondent and dismaying. The reason why he thought this way was because from his personal standpoint if impoverished and affluent people did not have a discrepancy such a society would remain controversial. Another quote which demonstrated that he (George Orwell) antipathies communism is: “Theoretically- and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.” This quotation defines, once again, that Orwell dislikes the socialist system. In this literary composition, Orwell’s fear of humiliation is one of the most important topics. An exemplar which shows Orwell’s use of language that creates a literary effect on his personal fear of humiliation was when he said: “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.” This saying verifies that Orwell did not feel comfortable with shooting the elephant, in fact, according to the sentence he felt peer pressured and thought of himself as an object because the force of the Burmese anticipation made him feel like he was incapable of managing this matter.
In this story, it is told that Orwell did not sense the need for slaughtering the immense animal and the only cause which made him compute this action was fear of humiliation. In other words, Orwell killed the mammoth in order to maintain a degree of supremacy. This may be valuable as Orwell might be living his life ,not as a policeman, but rather as an individual who is aware of that others have yearnings of him. At the begging of the essay the reader is told by the narrator that the main character, the narrator is poorly treated by the locals of lower Burma, due to this he is concerned about their opinions of him. The third primary subject sutured through this story is colonial resentment of the people of Burma. In this essay George attempts to prove that colonialism is vicious, or as he describes it in the story: “Systematic evil.” George Orwell believes that each and every individual living in Burma is not sinful. Despite that, they all have to comply with a system that causes them to conduct in foolish ways. In this literary composition, Orwell uses his experience of shooting an elephant as a metaphor of colonialism. After terminating the action of assassinating of the virtuous animal Orwell says a very prominent quote: “When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”
The narrator comprehends that the system of governance of Burma is degrading him. For example, he does not aspire to loathe local Burmese people, but he does. In the essay, he portrays himself of being very irritated by them (the Burmese citizens) that he even fantasizes about killing them. A reader can understand that the conventions of colonialism force the main character to behave brutishly for no peculiar reason. Ultimately, this essay relates the political scenario of that time with social reality. The main theme of: “Shooting an elephant” is to divulge disputes between one’s moral conscience and law. Orwell proves that this is the main theme by one action: the significant decision that he has to make of whether he should execute the elephant or not. In only a limited amount of space this essay teaches one an important lesson, due to this; this work is crucial to read today, even though many things now-a-days have been modified.
One of the many lessons that this literary composition teaches is that occasionally people’s decisions become influenced by other individuals, but not always in the correct or righteous way. One can perceive that this is an important moral of the story because one of the main moments of this essay happens when George Orwell is beholden to choose between two undesirable options: killing the elephant and becoming a substantial figure or saving the life of the animal but becoming humiliated. Likewise, Orwell has an internal dispute between his own moral conscience and his personal immoral actions. Consequently, Orwell becomes a puppet for the local citizens by deserting his considerations of moral integrity. In conclusion, an individual should contemplate on reading this essay as it teaches a valuable lesson that all human beings should learn.
Critique of the Narrator in Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
When I began to read the essay Shooting An Elephant by George Orwell, I did not like the Narrator. The Narrator is working as policeman working for the British in the country of Burma, a colony of Great Britain. The Narrator begins the story stating that he believed that Imperialism to be wrong. The oppression that he sees everyday not to be a good thing. He is in constant confusion due to the injustice’s surrounds him. The Narrator does not like the Burmese locals. The Narrator does not like being in Burma. The Burmese people do not like his presence either. The locals harass the Narrator and make fun of him.
My conclusion at the end of the Essay was that the Narrator was a coward for shooting the Elephant. He only shot the Elephant because he did not want to be made fun off. He also was dealing with peer pressure from the huge crowd that was following him, I believed if the Narrator chose instead to not shoot the Elephant, he would have been held in higher esteem. Furthermore, he also had a choice to not work for a country that during the time, Great Britain held the most power.
The Industrial Revolution made it possible for a lot of countries like Great Britain to obtain a lot of money and power. These countries began occupying and colonizing different countries. There was a big gap between the haves and have nots. All imperialism fosters the annihilation of culture. It fosters racism and ethnic division. As I read the Shooting An Elephant for the second time, no date is given in the story. Imperialism did not end it is still going on today. Instead of bullets and brutality being the means at use, economics are being used at present. The views I had toward the Narrator began to change. The Narrator does give a little background of his feelings. However, did he experience feelings before he went to Burma hoping to make changes for the country of Burma for the better? Is the Narrator similar to a soldier that has joined the military with idealistic views to serve his country, as in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be disillusioned when the realities of war sunk in? The setting of the story might be different. However, today we still have countries being occupied by outside forces. It has never ended. I initially thought the Narrator was a coward but was he? The Shooting An Elephant opinion would be considered very differently based in present day no matter setting or the Narrator job as a Policeman representing his country.
The Narrator states “For at the time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job the better. The Narrator goes on to give an account of the brutalities he has witnessed. Prisoners in cages and scars on some from being flogged as punishment . My first impression was how could the Narrator continue on his assignment knowing it was wrong? He did not like the job. “As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can make clear. I believe the Narrator had so much self-doubt in himself and no clear direction on what to do. Secondly, he represented his country. Serving country and nationalism is taught to everyone at a young age. It was true during the setting of the story as it is today. Can a solider in the military just leave because of a job or duty that he or she is given. I believe the main reason is his desire to be liked and respected over rides any sense of guilt or morality he claimed to have.. “For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life trying to impress the “natives”. I believe after some thought that the Narrator is no different, he is not a coward. He is no different than any of us in his time or the present. We all have a desire to please and be liked. In school, we want to be liked by our peers, teachers and please our parents. Does that make the Narrator a coward?
Imperialism and occupation has never ended. Other means are implemented to oppress people, “The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it’s not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering.” The IMF and the World Bank was set up to make countries economically dependent for resources and finances. Furthermore most of these countries are third world countries. This is a new form of imperialism .
My conclusion is that I do not believe the Narrator is a coward. I decided this after I put it in present day situations. The elephant in the story represents Burma, a country that was victimized and oppressed. The Narrator represents the oppressor. He is an oppressor that goes along with a system that he has always know to be in place. Did he know how this would be when came to Burma. The policies that are put in place by governments I feel now more to blame.
George Orwell’s Observations On Human Nature In Shooting An Elephant
In this argumentative essay I will qualify Orwell’s observations on human nature. According to Orwell, the author of Shooting an Elephant, he observes that tyrants destroy their own freedom and the masks people wear grow to fit them. The first of his observations holds true and is supported with evidence for his autobiography and two external sources. And when qualifying his second point it only holds true for the autobiography. The two outside sources deny his observation. At the end of the essay I will take a step back and explains how the story is relevant to our lives.
George Orwell’s autobiographical essay, Shooting an Elephant, showcases the wrongs of imperialism. The helpless British Officer, Orwell, has become a victim of imperialism and the people he governs, who are the Burmese. Orwell believes imperialism to be evil and wrong even though he is humiliated by the people of Burma. When an elephant breaks loose and kills a Burmese, Orwell hunts down the savage beast. However, upon finding it, he sees that the it is calmly eating. He no longer wishes to kill the beast, but the spectating Burmese pressure him into pulling the trigger. When writing his story Orwell exposes human nature and the results of his decision. “When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys”(Orwell, 2009) and that “he wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it”(Orwell, 2009). He believes that his actions are due to human nature and so he speaks as if his decision would be matched by others. In response to the paradoxical metaphor and his position, I will qualify Orwell’s beliefs.
A tyrant’s own freedom is at risk when their greed takes over. In the case of Orwell, he argues that he shot the elephant because of his greediness. “They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching”. Orwell was greedy for the people’s respect and so he gave his freedom to become a tyrant. Later in the story he mentions that even though he is the leader, he is pushed around like a puppet. “I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”. Orwell’s claim is argued when he realizes that he’s lost his freedom to become the tyrant. Though Orwell’s tyrannical rule is weak compared to other tyrants, the basis of greed is similar. Stalin’s tyrannical desires were born out greed. He went and overthrew a progressive Russia. The freedoms and liberties that citizens of Russia once knew were now restricted by Stalin. However, Orwell’s paradoxical metaphor still holds true and Stalin along with his family were imprisoned for his actions. Stalin is just one of many tyrants that qualify Orwell’s belief. The most common would be Hitler. His greedy desire for a perfect race and absolute power brought his demise. He went and overthrew a structurally weak Germany and created immoral and corrupt policies along with concentration camps. In the end, like Stalin and Orwell, he lost his freedom when the world joined together to stop the Nazis. Despite Orwell’s accurate claim, his view on a mask growing to fit people is flawed.
A mask covers the true intentions of the person. Orwell argues that the mask allowed for him to hid his true beliefs. “I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British”. The real Orwell had a strong dislike for imperialism and actually felt pity for the Burmese. His mask though, was one that portrayed him as a loyal British officer. “A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things”. As a sahib or European he must behave like one. This is the turning point in his mindset. He no longer hesitates to choose between the people and the elephant, because he has chosen the people. His firmness and resoluteness in his decision is the effect of the mask growing to fit him. Stalin and Hitler however defy Orwell’s observations on human nature. Like Orwell their masks hid their true intention, but they never changed into their mask. Their masks only hid their corrupt thoughts, which were revealed when they gained a position of power. Hitter’s and Stalin’s mask were created from deceit and false promises. Unlike Orwell, when they became in charge of the state they took off their mask. Hitter no longer hid behind his deceit and false promises, rather he went and massacred the innocent Jewish people and attempted to conquer surrounding areas, only to be stopped by nations united under the goal of stopping Nazi Germany. Similarly Stalin hid behind a mask that showed him as a loyal citizen. In the end he used the violence occurring in Russia at the time as a distraction. He went and gathered his Battle Squads to raid both government and local Arsenal’s and troops. When brought into a political position his corrupt face was showing over his mask. And so he too murder Illinois of innocent citizens. Both Hitler and Stalin are example of two tyrants that deny Orwell’s claim. For some people the mask takes over and for others the mask is only an item to hide behind.
Orwell’s story brings to light a much larger topic of helplessness. In Orwell’s decision of shooting the elephant, helplessness was the primary factor effecting his decision. For us, especially high school students, the feelings of helplessness we face is because of peer pressure. Our peers have a large impact on what, why, and how we do things. The most common example of peer pressure is taking drugs. When you are at a friend house and put into a situation like that of Orwell’s, it becomes difficult to deny your peers. Being aware of this we must all strive to take better decisions.
Orwell’s Message In Shooting An Elephant
The East is not known, culturally, to be a logical bunch. Most of the magical fairy tales come from the East. Take for example the Arabian Nights. One of the main ways the East deals with information is through stories and prophecies. That’s what they have always been doing. Now, this does not mean that there never was science in the east. No, on the contrary, some of the best inventions come from the East. However, the East, in general, is a culture that mostly passes stories around. It is quite interesting for Orwell to state although this was written many years before the wars and crisis in Iraq, yet it still rings true to the state of the time. After all, was said and done everyone around the world thought they knew what was going on, but that was far from the truth.
It is quite interesting how the narrator, supposing it was Orwell himself, says that he had almost made his mind about the elephant not being there in the first place and being a lie. In the first paragraph, he makes it clear that he had made up his mind about Imperialism. The writer does tell us that he had made up his mind, but he never mentions how. And as he goes through gathering information about the elephant, he almost makes up his mind about the elephant not being true at all. The lack of physical evidence almost convinced him that the elephant was not there. While just some lines before that he uses the word “professed” to describe what someone told him about the place of the elephant. This is a beautifully crafted example for a compare and contrast situation between the Western way of gathering information and the Eastern way. For it shows us how the writer or any Westerner for that matter would go about gathering information. So maybe he did lots of research to realize that Imperialism was evil, but what research did he do to know about the elephant? He simply asked around. The two situations are different, for sure, but it makes you wonder if they are so different after all.
The story cannot be taken at face value especially since we know Orwell was a writer with vision and message in his writings. Orwell makes a perfect comparison between the East and the West. He also takes it further to a philosophical question of whether Imperialism is good or bad. Orwell reflects on the many aspects of the time when the British Raj ruled. Let’s take for example the expression of the elephant in the room, let’s suppose the elephant that Orwell is trying to shoot is a problem or some major issue that he is trying to put an end to. We should ask an educated question here, which is: what is the issue? Well, Imperialism, the elephant stands for the British Raj. And the narrator is just trying to search for, shoot, and put an end to it. At the beginning of the story, he starts asking around. The people there, who are under the rule of an Imperialist, are aware but don’t see its features. So some of them do not even know where the elephant is while some of them only profess where it had gone. This is not only the case with political news around the world, but it also speaks on a social level. However, it is quite interesting that it is not until someone shouts out, and only then the narrator sees a dead body on the soil ground that he knows for sure that the elephant was there. This is a reflection of how the West, or anyone, does not go to help or are unconvinced at the existence of a problem until some physical evidence appears, or in this case as in many other cases, someone dies.
The essay is a reflection on so many levels. Orwell might be talking about some tangible real-life experience. However, we cannot ignore the multilayered narrative. The story does not only recount the shooting of some elephant. It is a portrayal, a showcase, a study even, of the West and the East. Orwell’s message has never been easily received or deduced from his stories, and this essay is no exception. But as rule of thumb, we can safely assume that Orwell, like many other writers of his generation, was sick and tired of unnecessary conflicts. Orwell simply wanted peace, freedom, and strength.
Rhetoric and Contradiction of Human Nature
Though at times confusing, using a contradiction strongly establishes and emphasizes a point and often inspires an emotional response. In George Orwell’s essay, “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell effectively delivers these contradictions, or paradoxes, in a manner that defines human nature in political situations and illustrates the issues with such responses. These rhetorical devices add depth to Orwell’s argument that better persuade the reader to consider his position on human nature in political situations.
To claim that “…when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys,” Orwell implies that, in the context of the time period of British Imperialism, any leader that runs rampant in their country is destined to sacrifice their own freedom in addition to pulverizing the freedom of the others’ they are desperate to control. In the essay, Orwell describes himself as being “…stuck between [his] hatred of the empire [he] served and [his] rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make [his] job impossible.” His job as an Indian Imperial police officer makes him loyal to Imperialist Britain, yet, he wants to help the oppressed Indians, regardless of how poorly they treat him. This is an example of how the white man destroys his own freedom when attempting to viciously control or expand into other countries, as Great Britain was doing in this era.
Orwell later argues with himself about shooting the elephant before realizing that he must with the crowd watching him. This is his loss of freedom based on his loyalty to the British Empire that had run tyrant. It is human nature, in political situations, to either consciously or subconsciously sacrifice something personal for the sake of the whole. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also proves this instinct in his description of the few white American, saying in “A Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.” This hesitation and resistance that King faced was a result of the oppressive government that, when loyal to that government, the freedom of that person is obliterated for the sake of suppressing another’s because their choices had to follow the strict guidelines they’d been given. Because of this, the paradox Orwell uses to emphasize how people react in the face of hardened, harsh government officials shoving rules and restrictions down their throats is effective, in that it shows how it’s human nature to follow orders and avoid being singled out for daring to speak out.
Orwell presses the issue of human instinct in times of racial and social segregation by saying that the white man “…wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it,” addressing the reality that, when oppressive governments or leaders, in general, press for something with enough force, the citizens under their rule will adhere to their wishes and at least pretend to stick to the status quo. The citizens adopt a persona, a “mask” that does not reflect their true feelings and thoughts for the sake of conformity. Ultimately, however, fantasy vanishes and what’s left is only reality. The citizens’ faces “grow to fit the mask,” and they, in turn, become their personas. The racist and controversial ideas people adapt, most commonly do to fear of their leaders, eventually solidify from facade to actuality which they then pass on to younger generations, of whom know nothing different as a result. This is true in Orwell’s account of shooting an elephant where he, again, describes himself as “…stuck between [his] hatred of the empire [he] served and [his] rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make [his] job impossible,” illustrating that, because he was forced to “wear a mask” in order to appease his leaders and aid in the suppression of the British-controlled India at the time, he came to despise the Indians as well, adhering to the stereotype. This is human nature: to go with the flow and keep quiet when having a differing opinion is the option many choose when faced with difficult political situations. Because the dictators and fascist governments of a given time created freakishly effective propaganda, many citizens feared reprimanding for posing an opposing argument to their leaders and adopted racial, social, sexuality, and religious discriminating perspectives to avoid being on the other side of the barrel of the gun. These “masks” they wore came to be truth, eventually, and they passed those ideas down to their children. This paradox Orwell makes is sound and true, proved in the accounts of World War II, because it adequately emphasizes how humans react to oppressive, power-greedy governments and leaders with how quickly they answer to fear and “…grow to fit [the mask].”
Orwell takes such simple phrases that initially seem merely contradictory and confusing, and he uses them to his advantage to inspire questions and emotions. These questions and emotions fall back to his concept of human nature in the face of political situations, and he effectively presents them in such a short and sweet way with the paradoxes that without them, the essay loses its effect to call attention to the issues with things such as imperialism. Because Orwell successfully creates these paradoxes that are not difficult to comprehend and can be supported with evidence in other essays such as “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and events in history, they add an element to the essay that strongly supports the argument. Though at times confusing, the complexity of paradoxes often changes an entire piece in a way that’s unattainable through anything else.
Shooting An Elephant George Orwell English Literature Essay
George Orwell is a writer, novelist and essayist. He was born in June 25, 1903 and died last January 21, 1950 at London, England (Bookrags.) He was born with the name Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bengal, where his father was an employee at the Opium Department of the Government of India. Orwell’s nationality is British. Moreover, he belongs to the middle-class upbringing in England. He successfully set forward in life using his talent and gift for writing (Bookrags, Book Rags.) From a very early age of five or six years old, he knew then that when upon growing, he will be a writer. Though, he went into a crisis during his seventeen and twenty-four years and left this idea neglected, but fought such feeling. He found his true nature and sooner wrote books (George Orwell, Sonia Orwell, Ian Angus.) Orwell’s book of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” shows a fate of courage and strength amidst imperialism. It tells a story taking place in Burma, after 1936, which depicts two of the irreversible lines of demarcation in Orwell’s career. Though, others thought that he would have preferred hiding from public with the success of his book, such disappearance would mark an extra step in the cutting of personality and class origins he have pursued to achieve in enthusiasm (Courtney T. Wemyss.)
He changed his name of Eric Blair and later on became George Orwell. This transformation was greatly reflective in “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Two of his most generally anthologized essays are the, “Shooting an Elephant” and “A Hanging.” Their settings are both in Burma, wherein his novel “Burmese Days” is recurrently mentioned in discussions cited by Edward Morgan Forster in his own literal piece, “A Passage to India.” It is well known that Orwell’s experience of being a police officer employed with the Indian subcontinent was told in the “Shooting an Elephant.” In here, he shaped his political outlook (Courtney T. Wemyss.) He cited his views on shooting an elephant, through this quote: “But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.)” (George Orwell)
Particularly, he wanted to establish awareness in the reader on a form of self-destruction resulted from the system of government. Its main theme is a total effect of repulsion on imperialism and atrocity. According to him, this can be a jagged tipped sword able to ruin the oppressor and the oppressed. This conclusions were generated from his experiences back in Burma when he was still working under the British government as a police officer. On his anecdote regarding man and life on earth, he said, “I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys”. (Santiago.) In terms of plot, it is arranged chronologically and climactically, with suspense and expresses of the ideas clearly. The plot contributes to the criticism on imperialism, because without telling his dilemma on shooting the elephant, he could not have been very convincing of his views. Orwell’s overall attitude is uncertainty and bitterness. Wherein, there is usage of a formal English language, with a little bit of eastern terminology. The tone of the story is serious, humorless and critical in ways that helps build the whole effect of the story line and show a credible attack on imperialism by Orwell. Wherein, the conflict is man versus man or even against nature (Santiago.) This is seen more as internal and psychological debates as Orwell, who is Eric Blair in the scenes and the protagonist of the story, fights against himself. There is self- torment happening from own ideas thought and emotions felt. He did not want to look funny to the Burmese natives of the land, which is why he acted the way he did when he thought of shooting an elephant. The said internal conflict was not put an end into until Orwell had his chance of realization from the results of his deeds. The atmosphere created throughout reading the paragraphs is characterized by hatred from both dueling parties of the Burmese hatred for the imperialist invader and the sited British officials’ defense of their sides. The setting took place in Moulmein, which is a town in Lower Burma, during the 1920’s where Great Britain was still an imperialist country, but was predicted to suffer a decline after World War One.
The point of view used to tell the story is first-person. Blair was a consistent and trustworthy narrator of his own story, who was an active protagonist in the events, as well as he was able to gain insight and perception after being a character in the story. He became more objective in sharing as time passed.
Additionally, the two dominant characters are the elephant and its executioner. Moreover, Blair was recognized more of being a British officer or the executioner and acts as a symbol of the imperial country, with a round and dynamic character experiencing mixed feelings of compassion and fury for the Burmese government. The use of irony was seen when he finally decided on shooting the elephant. This gives the reader an uncomfortable feeling and imagery which hangs them of almost up to a point that of Blair seems to give up on the. His style of communication is simple, but has complex sections to express enough deepness. On the other hand, the symbols of the elephant are freedom and the victims of imperialism, wherein it is compared to machinery that became later on a motherly air. The said character gains sympathy from readers. Moreover, the yellow faces of the Burmese also symbolize the victims of imperialism; even supposing they ironically dominates Orwell.
Lastly, the Buddhist priest has a stereotype and flat character, who gives contrasting roles to the actions and decisions coming from Orwell.
Orwell and Hsun Essay
Literature should not exist for its own sake but should be a mirror through which the society looks at itself. It should therefore imitate the truth and portray it to the society for self-reflection. This is evident in George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” and Lu Xun’s “The Real Story of Ah Q”. Shooting the Elephant is a real life reflection of the author’s experience as a police officer in India. It is about the shameless irony of imperialism spread by western governments, which subjects even its own to discrimination.
The Real Story of Ah Q is a satirical piece that shows the irony of revolutionary movements. Whereas these two stories have similarities, they also have marked differences in form, style, and aim. This paper endeavors to highlight some similarities and differences especially in the aims and the writing style of these two authors.
The aim of these two pieces is to portray societies as notorious for curtailing the freedom of individuals. Not only do communities prescribe rules that must be followed by all but also have expectations on certain individuals that are out of touch with reality. The main characters in these two stories find themselves in odd positions where their individual freedoms are subordinated under those of the community.
Orwell was made to shoot the elephant against his will, while Ah Q had no right over his sir name and was mistreated by the locals (Orwell para 7: Hsun para 3, 5). There is also a well-developed attempt to portray imperialism in its negative light (Orwell para 3; Hsun 2). The two authors also use irony to great extent. Ah Q thinks himself the enlightened one even thought the reader knows he is not, while Orwell agonizes under the realization of the irony of western imperialisms (Hsun para 16; Orwell para 3).
However, these authors also portray certain differences in their works. Hsun uses satire more overtly to laugh at the societies ills than Orwell. Ah Q thinks that he is the “number one self-doubter” and when your remove “self-doubter” you are left with “number one.” So he is always number one (6). He also sees his failures as his victories (7).
Orwell creates a sympathetic attitude on the main subject while Hsun’s has comic relief (Orwell para 1, 2; Hsun 8). The aim of Shooting an Elephant is to describe the plight of those who rebel against their own culture, and are unappreciated by those they make this sacrifice for (Orwell para 2).
Hsun work criticizes satirically the failed Chinese revolution of 1911. The failure of this revolution is symbolized in the power of women who seduce men thus derailing them from their noble duty of revolutionizing the society. These women are demonized as the causes of the failed revolution (11).
Even though these two works were written years ago, they still find a lot of relevance in today’s society. They ironically mirror the struggles of modern societies and individuals against injustices, such as the denial of individual rights by societal norms and the failure of modern governments to meet the expectations of its citizens.
Hsun’s use of comic effect and satire is as effective as Orwell’s employment of sympathy and sarcasm. Therefore, these two authors prove that it is effectively possible to employ different styles to highlight similar themes.
Hsun, Lu. “The True Story Of Ah Q.” 2002. Blackmask Online. Web.
Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant.” 1950. 15 February, 2011. http://www.online-literature.com/