Shooting an Elephant
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/
Shooting an Elephant Essay
In the essay “Shooting an Elephant”, Orwell tries to put across the dilemma of a white man in a position of power in the imperialistic Britain, who does not quite identify with the evils of imperialism.
This often leads him in to uncomfortable situations requiring him to take actions against his will. Although it might seem that this means carrying out British orders even when he does not agree with them, “Shooting an Elephant” shows that it could also mean living up to the expectations placed on a white man by the locals, even though it may be against his conscious.
In the essay, Orwell realizes that he must shoot the elephant because as a representative of the British imperialism in the small town, not doing so would have shown the British Empire to be a foreign oppressor that could not be trusted to protect the locals when needed.
Orwell makes its very clear at the outset that even though he represented the British imperialism, he had already decided that “imperialism was an evil thing” (para 2) and secretly sided with the Burmese in their fight against the British oppression.
So even though the Burmese saw him as an enemy and tried to harm him in inconspicuous ways, Orwell actually empathized with their cause. As such, his duties as police officer often meant that he had to carry out orders that at a personal level he found distasteful. It also meant that the locals, who had no way of knowing how he really felt, judged him based on the actions that he carried out as an instrument of the British rule.
According to Bertonneau, “The “British Empire” is never present in and of itself, because it is an abstraction, a system; it only appears through its agents” (para 3), the agent in this case being Orwell. As a result, Orwell realizes that he must always act in way that is expected of a white man, even though he may not personally agree with those actions.
This need to always behave in a way expected of him is not because of any pressure from the empire or his superiors but because as a representative of the British ruler, he must do everything he can to “impress the ‘natives’ and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him” (para 7).
Killing the elephant was not only morally wrong since it was a source of income to its owner but even legally it bordered on the gray. Orwell was well aware of this even before he laid his eyes on the elephant. He never really intended to kill the elephant and when he borrowed the elephant rifle, it was more as an act of self defense than with any intention to shoot at the elephant.
Yet, once he had got the gun, the natives expected him to kill the elephant and protect them from the “crazy” animal. As more and more natives gathered, the pressure to do what was expected of him and impress the natives grew, until Orwell was left with no other option but to shoot the elephant, against his better judgment.
Orwell’s actions show that even though as a person he may not want to kill the elephant, as a white man, “he wears a mask” of the colonizer and hence must live up to the expectations placed on a white colonizer, that is, make sure that “his face grows to fit” the said mask. As a white man in the colony, he is by definition supposed to be superior to those he colonizes.
He cannot afford to show any kind of weakness which would in any way compromise his superiority over the colonized. As a result, even though he believes that imperialism is evil, he “ultimately fails to see beyond the ‘yellow faces’ of the Burmans” (Tyner 266).
His “white mask” of the colonizer is juxtaposed against the “yellow mask” of the colonized and the white man must always come across as the superior. If he had not killed the elephant, he would have come across as a weak person and become a laughing stock among the locals.
As Orwell mentions, their “hideous laughter” and “sneering yellow faces” (para 1) were getting on his nerves and he could not allow them to get another opportunity to laugh at him. By killing the elephant, he made sure that the superior white mask of the colonizer that he wore in his interactions with natives remained firmly in place.
Thus, Orwell contends that even though he was supposedly the free white man ruling the native Burmans, in reality he was not really free as he could not do what he really wanted to do but must always to what was expected of him as a representative of the British government.
The British Empire is just an abstract system but it is the actual people, whether the colonized or the colonizer, who must give up their freedom in order to live within this system. In killing the elephant, Orwell stopped being a “person” and become just an agent of the British Empire, thus losing his freedom as an individual.
Bertonneau, Thomas. “An overview of “Shooting an Elephant”.” Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web.
Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant” 1931. Web.
Tyner, James A. “Landscape and the mask of self in George Orwell’s ‘Shooting an elephant’.” Area 37.3 (2005): 260-267. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.
Shooting an Elephant Imperialism. Symbolism in George Orwell’s Story Essay
“Shooting the elephant” is a story that explores the description of an imaginary encounter of an Englishman working in the Colonial police force in Burma. The story describes an experience with an uncontrollable and deterministic elephant. The narrator shows that he did not want to shoot the elephant but he had to do it by the will of the submissive Burmese people to bring about redemption of the people.
The study gives the breakdown of colonial nations as applied by the actors in the colonised regions. The officer describes his breakdown by expressing the mockery received for the authority. The story captures the violent reality of colonialism as the narrator unfolds the events of the actual shooting and the description of the slow and painful death of the elephant that seemed peaceful in hands of a colonial officer. The above study argues that George Orwell’s “Shooting an elephant” story represents a symbol of imperialism.
The story of shooting the elephant begins with a thoughtful introduction of the actions where the narrator, Orwell, describes the difficulty of being a colonial police officer, especially, in the middle of the twentieth century in British Burma; where many people hated him. Orwell shows how the anti-Europeans were bitter to an extent of spitting on the European women as they crossed over to the market. The sub divisional police officers would now raise more alarm as the Burmese could yell with revolting laughter.
Orwell therefore understood the hatred and thought was justified, though he admits that he would be happy if he could run through his oppressors. Johnston (375) puts that the event of shooting the elephant begins with a phone call that Orwell received about an elephant ravaging the bazaar. As a police officer and his hunting rifle, he followed the elephant to the village where the Buddhist priests had much hatred and were so many in the streets idle and jeering Europeans.
Runciman (182-183) shows that George Orwell’s book “Shooting an elephant” reflects the author as a socially conscious individual. He also says that the book served as a supplement in the days of the Burmese. Orwell shows his experience as a colonial official to both India and Burma, which were regions in the British Empire (Runciman 82-183). This study involves a colonial officer obligated to shoot a rogue elephant by the crowd from the indigenous residents for not wanting to seem a coward in the eyes of the huge crowd.
Orwell describes the event of shooting the elephant and compares it to the hostility reigning between the British Empire and the administrators, as well as the natives. In this situation, both parties have much hatred, mistrust, resentment and degrade one another and therefore the shooting represents a huge suffering expressed economically (Runciman 82-183).
“Shooting an Elephant” has created much criticism in the British literature, and especially in the political environment of modern criticism. This is because it has generated a debate on whether Orwell was legally right to condemn imperialism. Critics show insufficient condemnation and that the narrator is an agent of the British Empire who denounces the presence of the British who were corrupting their regions.
To begin with, it is important to analyse the historical background of the colonisation of Burma and describe the people of Burma. It is also necessary to provide the biography and bibliographical experience of George Orwell. This is because the author focuses on the relationship between the natives and the government. The breakdown of colonial rhetoric linking theory and practice shapes some of the phrases used by Orwell, for example, Orwell used the sea of yellow faces to display the idea of racism from the colonising people.
The author also looks at the Burmese villagers as the same people with no distinct characteristics. He describes the unplanned scattering of their houses and the palm-leaf thatched huts, marking them with yellow color create the difference between the white man’s power and the Burmese. This also describes poverty and foulness within the neighborhood.
On the other hand, the narrator is afraid of the Burmese and their forces and he describes them as a sea of people. The officer also offers the people presence and much more force than his. He also realises that he is one person among a “sea” of many others.
The colonial officer notices that though he is legally powerful and has a rifle, the events of the day remain dictated by the people behind him who would see him as a fool if he did not shoot the elephant in spite of having the weapon amidst many helpless Burmese. The author also uses words such as magical, conjurer and absurd puppet to show he is against the British colonial powers. The words take the fear of the colonised people that the British people criticise.
Orwell uses un-scientific words when describing the event. The use of diction displays a corrupt British influence to the colonized people and reflects the degradation of the style of the colonising powers. This study therefore shows the moving symbol of the colonial experience.
The view of British imperialism is more reflected where the colonial officer shows that he is against the oppressors and their evil deeds. Though he is a British officer and has much authority among the Burmese people, he has some build up hatred and remorse towards himself and his empire, as well as to the Burma people whom he refers to as evil spirited little beasts.
The essay therefore does not only show the personal experience with the elephant, but also uses metaphors to show the experience with the imperialism and his views towards the colonial rule.
Orwell expresses hostile feelings towards the imperialism, British justification for taking over the powers of the Burma people and the entire British Empire. Orwell has set the mood of the essay by illustrating the climate to be cloudy and stuffy morning at the beginning of the rain. This shows that Orwell has established that his character is weak and discomforting especially by describing how the Burma people laughed and mocked him.
According to Adas & Peter (54-58) imperialism has been a cause for the poor relationship between the Burma people and police officers. The breakdown brings the beliefs of imperialism in practical application. This is shown by how the British came to power and the history of the Burma and how the society had been exploited.
Orwell gives his experience in Burma and the story shows the mood and feeling of a person experiencing British imperial break down. Orwell realised that though he is the authority in the region, the Burmese people had control over his actions. This shows that there was a poor relationship between the coloniser and the colonised. The officer describes his nature of authority as derived from the people as opposed to self-designed force.
He states that he stood with a rifle in his hands and thought of the hollowness and ineffectiveness of the power of the white man in the East. With much power between citizens and political leaders in England over the Burmese people, the people using the authority had also recognised the poor relationship between the colonised and the colonisers.
It is therefore clear that the buildup of the story of finding the elephant serves a metaphoric force to illuminate on the imperialist powers that usurps the rights of the people. The narrator shows that the elephant’s rampaging destroyed homes, food shelves and worse of all, it killed a man described as having an unbearable agony on his face. Upon finding the elephant, the narrator also describes that he knew for sure that he had no right to shoot him.
This shows that as a colonial officer, he ought not to kill his ruling government but support it (Barbara 46). The narrator also says that when he laid his eyes on the huge mass of Burmese behind him, he changed his attitude towards shooting the elephant. He continually says that he did not want to shoot the elephant and this explains that the narrator understands the guilt of shooting an elephant that seemed so peaceful from a distance.
The narrator also gives various reasons why he did not want to shoot the elephant, for example, he states that an elephant was worth more alive than it dead. He also states that he is bad at shooting, and he would not want to miss the target, as he never wanted the crowd to laugh at him and make him seem defeated. This shows that the colonial police officer fell to the expectations of the Burmese. He went against his will and moral belief and decided to shoot (Barbara 46). This describes how the British people would never want to seem less powerful than the natives as the colonisers in the story did. The death of the elephant metaphorically represents the British Imperialism in Burma. This is because before the British expansion came to Burma, it was a free kingdom and the Burmese and the British oppressors fought three wars. Barbara (2006) describes that the first was the Anglo-Burmese War fought in 1824 and the other was in 1852. The third war was in 1855 where the British took over Burma.
Orwell states that he did not hear the bang or kick of the first trigger, and he had to fire again at the same spot between the ears where it was easier to kill the elephant. The third firing illustrates the final shot to the elephant, as it showed the agony that jolted its whole body. The elephant knocked its last strength from his legs.
The three wars therefore represented the three shots. Hobson (2005) puts it that the elephant represented Burma and its unyielding struggle to remain powerful over the colonisers (5-7). This can be compared to how the elephant had tried to remain alive after the third shot.
By staying down after the third shot, the elephant is still alive, just like the Burmese people who were still there, powerless and helpless once the three wars. Orwell (1936) explains that the Burmese are now under the control of the British, and the death of the elephant is a metaphor showing the British rule and how it has declined against Burmese as some went away and others died (67).
Orwell reflects guilt by stating that seeing the elephant lying so powerless on the ground unable to move and yet powerless to die. The narrator shows that he is guilty being a colonial police officer who fought in the war against Burma. Beissinger (294-303) shows that Britons were also doubtful of their right to rule others in their territory.
This mounted much hatred and resentment from the Burmese. By killing the elephant, Orwell justifies himself for having the right to shoot and that it was legal. He justifies this using the fact that a mad elephant deserves being killed just as a mad dog is once the owner does not control it (Beissinger 299). He also admits being glad for the elephant had killed a villager and legally that justifies a legal act. However, Orwell realises the truth to be false in the wake of the efforts to save the elephant.
Orwell uses the metaphors; for example, by comparing himself to a magician and the huge masses of villagers was his audience. He also compares himself to a lead actor and as an absurd puppet. Orwell states that he represents a posing dummy and that he looked like a person wearing a mask. This is because by holding the rifle, the Burma people expected to see the elephant down. John (2008) describes that though he was a white man and more so, in the authority, it was more expected that he had to kill the elephant.
This describes George Orwell’s realisation of the position of the whites in the East and the negative contribution of imperialism. Orwell also realised that once a white man became a tormenter, he destroyed his own freedom. He says that white men should constantly do what the natives expect from them and impress them as they have control over the white man. Orwell completes his role and realises that throughout his rule in Burma, he is the Burmese victim.
Shooting the elephant is a clear depiction of the imperialist powers that wok to the detriment of the subjects. In his metaphoric epresentations, Orwell manages to demonstrate in clear terms the immense negative images portrayed by the inhibiting powers of the colonial masters.
By mentioning himself as an actor in the play, the narrator realised that he had to impress his audience who were people from Burma, and says that by aiming at the elephant’s head, the people behind him felt as if the curtains from the theatre were finally opened for the audience to view the play. These descriptions show his weaker character of submission to the crowd, which defines the order of the day through control of his actions.
However, he had to wear a mask and act like a powerful white man. The examples show the double-edged sword of imperialism and its misrepresentation of the people. The personal experience shows a moral dilemma reflecting the evils influenced by the colonial politics and imperialism.
Orwell represents an anti-imperialist writer that promotes this through the story of shooting the elephant. This is because, in this case, both the colonisers and the colonised are destroyed at the end. He detests the tethering effects of the colonial Britain and the story shows that the conqueror does not control the situation, but the expectations of the people guide him.
Adas, Michael. & Peter, N. Turbulent passage a global history of the Twentieth Century. New York: Pearson Education, Inc. 2008. Print.
Barbara, Bush. Imperialism and Post colonialism, History: Concepts, Theories and Practice, Longmans, 2006. Print.
Beissinger, Mark. “Soviet Empire as Family Resemblance,” Slavic Review 65 (2006): 294-303.
Hobson, Atkinson. Imperialism: a study. Cosimo, Inc. New York: 2005. Print.
John, Darwin. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400–2000. New York: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.
Johnston, Ronald. The Dictionary of Human Geography. eds. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000, Print.
Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant” The Literature Network, 1936. Web.
Runciman, David. Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond. New York: Princeton University Press, 2010. Print.
Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant from the Perspective of Kolb’s Four-Stages Essay
Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant focuses on a short story of a police officer who was forced to kill the animal. The story is a metaphorical representation of British Imperialism that limited people’s freedom and rights.
From the perspective of Kolb’s four-stage model, which defines four types of learning – thinking (Abstract Conceptualization), doing (Active Experimentation), feeling (Concrete Experience), and watching (Reflective Observation), the story focuses on the feeling (Concrete Experience), along with other less-represented learning styles that take place in the story.
At the very beginning of the story, the protagonist refers to reflective observation to describe the contextual background and explain historic context. Hence, while talking about the British government and people, the author notes, “There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans” (Orwell, 2003, p. 31).
Further deliberations are more reminiscent of the abstract conceptualization stage, during which the author makes generalized statements about Imperial power and criticizes the government in general. The stage of abstract conceptualization is strictly intertwined with reflective observation, which contributes to the assimilating style of cognizing the worlds. The style is particularly relevant because it accurately reflects the protagonists’ greater attention to concepts and logical exposition of ideas.
Although the story focuses on enumeration and depiction of subsequent events, almost no references are made to the stage of active experimentation. However, the climax of the story is reached as soon as the police officer sees the dead man that was smashed by the elephant. As soon as he sees it, the man “sent an orderly to a friend’s house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle” (Orwell, 2003, p. 34).
As soon as the main hero resorts to action, the learning model forms a combination of active experimentation and concrete experience that guides the officer to the end of the story, with slight reference to the abstract conceptualization. In such a manner, the author transforms the hero’s learning style to the accommodation stage, according to which the police officer cognizes the events by means of intuition rather than by means of logic.
Hence, taking practical actions with no logical assumptions refer to the significant influence imposed on the hero by the British imperial power. This type of behavior model exposes the hero’s strong preference for a specific learning style. At the same time, by adjusting all stages to different situations, the author expects the audience to understand the story from various perspectives. Additionally, experimenting with different learning styles, the author also seeks to employ different approaches to achieve the objective.
In conclusion, Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant represents a sophisticated synergy of learning styles from a combination of concrete experience and abstract conceptualization and ending with active experimentation and reflective observations. Interestingly, the learning styles also provide a sufficient explanation for the themes and ideas reflected in the story.
This is of particular concern to the abstract conceptualization of imperialism, as well as reflective observation of the people’s reaction to a new political order. One way or another, the model of concrete experience prevails because it suits best the description of hero’s perceptions and attitudes to the political power and Imperial dominance. Hence, the essay’s analysis from the perspective of Kolb’s model provides another angle for evaluation.
Orwell, G. (2003). Shooting an Elephant. US: Penguin Books.
Burma in “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell Essay
Overview of Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi
Burma is known as Myanmar and holds the highest record of human rights violation. The eye-catching issue in Burma is the long duration of military rule, from 1962 to 2011 (BBC par 1). A new constitution was formed in 2008, and it gave way for civilians to hold political positions.
Aung San Suu Kyi was an opposition group during the grand general election in 2010. The group opposed the elections since they were marred with impunity. The Burma military junta regarded the Aung San Suu Kyi as ‘democratic fighter’ because it led to ethnic tension in Burma. Additionally, the international human rights community viewed Aung San Suu Kyi group as a symbol of ‘freedom from oppression’ in Burma (BBC par 4).
The official name of Burma is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Burma is the largest ethnic group in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. According to the UN 2012 report, the country has a total population of 48.7 million, and its capital city is Nay Pyi Taw. Major religions are Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. Burma has experienced three major Anglo-Burmese wars in 1824, 1852, and 1885 (BBC par 4).
The first Anglo-Burmese war lasted for two years due to the intervention of the Treaty of Yandabo. The second Anglo-Burmese war was in 1852 and led to the removal of British governor from the political post. The Postcolonial Anglo-Burmese war occurred in 1885 where the British had an intention of conquering the remainder of Burma (BBC par 6).
Nature of Colonization
The story “Shooting an Elephant” expresses ways of gaining and destroying personal freedom under military rule. The soldier in the story has an Indian origin and goes ahead to shoot an elephant. The shooting of the elephant was in line with the will of the people, but the soldier feels guilty for denying the elephant its rights to live.
Orwell describes the humiliation he undergoes before his native people due to the oppression from the British Empire. The British practiced imperialism during the Anglo-Burmese wars. Imperialism affects both the oppressor and the oppressed, according to the Orwell narration (Orwell 2).
Orwell; who is a Burmese works as a British soldier and is displeased with the ruling nature of the Britain toward the Burmese. The unjust system of power results in doing activities that are wrong according to personal conscious. Orwell kills an elephant that was calm out of high pressure from the colonialists, and the locals. In other terms, the soldier thinks that the oppressor does not have control on the cause of actions that takes place at the community level (Orwell 4).
Tools of State Power
In Burma, there is extreme brutality of the police force unlike the police in the United States. The military junta instils fear among the residents and denies them freedom of expression. According to Larkin (15), Orwell worked for the military without any form of external influence. Orwell used his conscious in making influential military decisions even though the military coup on the rise.
The colonial experience in Burma varies greatly from the leadership tools used in the United States (Larkin 67). In the United States, there is minimal use of military force in governing the States, whereas in Burma the military junta is the ruling body that controls even the opposition. There is a heavy punishment on the people that violate the military rules, whereas, in the United States, the citizens participate in dialogue sessions for efficient governing (Larkin 119).
BBC. “Myanmar Profile.” bbc.com. 2014.
Larkin, Emma. Finding George Orwell in Burma. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2011.
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. London: Penguin UK, 2003.
Hills Are Like White Elephants and Shooting an Elephant Essay
Even though the short stories Hills are Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell are not related, in the formal sense of this word, both of the mentioned works of literature nevertheless explore essentially the same theme.
This theme can be formulated as follows: One of the reasons why there is much more misery in the world than there could have been being that the world’s unofficial ‘rulers’ (rationally minded White men, obsessed with trying to impose their dominance upon everybody else) are much too intellectually arrogant. In this paper, I will explore the validity of the above-stated at length.
Hills are Like White Elephants
Ernest Hemingway (1899 –1961) is considered one of America’s most prominent literary figures. Throughout his life, Hemingway never ceased adopting a strong stance on the issues of socio-political importance, while going as far as taking part in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Spanish legitimate government, which at the time was opposed by the fascist rebels. Through the final years of the WW2, Hemingway worked as a journalist in London and Paris.
Hemingway’s literary legacy is rather extensive – it accounts for seven novels and six collections of short stories, which are being marked by the author’s adherence to the ideals of progress and tolerance. As of today, Hemingway’s literary masterpieces are being commonly referred to, as such that contain several in-depth insights into what account for the qualitative aspects of the relationship between men and women.
In this respect, the short story Hills are Like White Elephants appears especially exemplary. After all, it is specifically the idea that, as compared to what it happened to be the case with women, men are differently ‘brain-wired,’ which represents the novel’s focal point. The validity of this suggestion can be well illustrated, in regards to the fact that, throughout his conversation with Jig, the American never ceased exhibiting the signs of being thoroughly arrogant.
For example, while trying to convince Jog that she should decide in favor of abortion, the American believed that the best way for him to address the task would be concerned with trying to appeal to his girlfriend’s sense of rationale: “You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it” (Hemingway 476).
It never occurred to him that it was not the prospect of facing any physical danger, which Jig considered the most upsetting thing about the suggested surgery, but the fact that it would result in killing her unborn child. In its turn, this implies that there is indeed much of a difference between how men and women address life-challenges.
Whereas, while reflecting upon the surrounding social reality and their place in it, men are innately driven to establish the dialectical links between causes and effects, women prefer to rely on their acute sense of intuition, in this respect. As Jig noted: “I just know things” (Hemingway 477). Therefore, it can hardly be considered appropriate that, during the conversation, the American continued to insist that he knew how Jig should have handled the situation – solely by virtue of having been a man.
Essentially the same can be said about the existential attitude, on the part of the American, reflected by this character’s tendency to avoid addressing life-challenges, as opposed to facing them directly. The allegory of the ‘white elephants,’ contained in Hemingway’s story, substantiates the validity of this suggestion: “Jig: I said the mountains looked like white elephants” (Hemingway 475).
Given the fact that the American disregarded this Jig’s remark, this can be well seen as such that that provides us with an insight into the workings of his psyche. The American tended to think that the unfamiliar things are, by definition posing a certain danger. In its turn, this betrays him as a typical egocentric White male, who was naturally tempted to objectify women as somewhat inferior beings, quite incapable of thinking rationally (Anderson 1350).
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that there are many unmistakably tragic overtones to Hemingway’s story – after having been exposed to it; readers inevitably conclude that it was only the matter of time before the American would leave Jig.
Shooting an Elephant
George Orwell (1903 – 1950) is considered one of the 20th century’s most influential British writers. Throughout his life, Orwell continued to travel extensively around the world, which in turn prompted him to come to the idea that, when implemented practically, many of the otherwise well-meaning political ideologies (such as Communism) tend to backfire.
As of today, Orwell is mainly remembered for his world-famous anti-utopias 1984 and Animal Farm, in which the author showed what happens when a particular totalitarian ideology attains the dominant status within the society.
Nevertheless, the author’s literary legacy contains several short stories, as well. Many of these stories are concerned with criticizing the notion of a ‘white man’s burden,’ as has been reflective of the White people’s mental fixation on the idea of domination (Kovel 60).
Orwell’s short story Shooting an Elephant, stands out as a perfect example, in this respect. In it, the author has gone to a great length, while expounding on what used to be his colonial experiences in Burma. Having been stationed there as a police officer, Orwell was expected to act as a well-respected authority figure, in charge of maintaining law and order among the dark-skinned locals.
In its turn, this required the author to be willing to exercise a ‘naked’ physical force continuously, as the mean of ensuring that the thought of disobeying their British masters would never get into the heads of the people in question. Therefore, even though Orwell did not want to be sent on an errand of killing the unruly elephant, he nevertheless could not refuse.
The reason for this is that, had he done otherwise, the Burmese would begin to doubt his professional adequateness, as a ‘natural-born’ master: “And suddenly I realized that I had to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly” (Orwell 3).
This, of course, implies that, contrary to the conventions of the early 20th century’s colonial discourse, the fact that Britain was able to build a vast empire, had very little to do with the country’s claim that, by colonizing the ‘savages’, it was allowing the latter to enjoy the ‘light of civilization’ (Pennycook 25). Rather, the colonial success of Britain reflected the British colonizers’ emotional comfortableness with coercing the colonial subjects to obey under the fear of punishment.
To make this fear particularly acute, the British did not have any other choice but to inflict pain and suffering upon others, just for the sake of doing it. This highlights the symbolic significance of the novel’s scene that describes the death of an elephant: “I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last strength from his legs.
But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree” (Orwell 4). Apparently, besides aiming to disturb readers emotionally, the above-quoted also implies that the price of Britain’s colonial prosperity was causing others to suffer, as something that had a value of a ‘thing in itself.’ And, as psychologists are aware of, only the extremely arrogant individuals do not have any moral objections against indulging in this specific activity.
I believe that the earlier provided line of argumentation, in defense of the idea that the novels Hills are Like White Elephants and Shooting an Elephant is concerned with exploring the motif of arrogance, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
It is indeed the case, which is why both of these novels are considered intellectually enlightening – they do provide readers with insight into what brings negativity into the lives of a great many people – namely, the fact that, as Hemingway and Orwell illustrated, some individuals cannot help acting arrogantly. Thus, it is thoroughly explainable why even today; the discussed novels appear to be just as actual, as it was the case back in the thirties.
Anderson, Warwick. “The Trespass Speaks: White Masculinity and Colonial
Breakdown.” The American Historical Review 102.5 (1997): 1343-1370. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest 1927, Hills are Like White Elephants. Web
Kovel, Joel. White Racism: A Psychohistory. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970. Print.
Orwell, George 1936, Shooting an Elephant. Web.
Pennycook, Alastair. English and the Discourses of Colonialism. London & New York: Routledge, 1998. Print.
Bound By The Chains Of Imperialism
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.
Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
In Shooting an Elephant George Orwell recounted an event from his life during his stationary in Burma, that he detested. He was stuck in the middle of the situation between Burmese and British imperialism. He was faced with a moral dilemma, forcing him to make unanticipated choices leaving long-lasting effects to him as to save his pride.
Orwell presented the strained tension between the Burmese and British during his time he served in Burma. All of his hatred towards British imperialism and Burmese made him feel isolated. As he described, “…imperialism was an evil thing…” (750). The bitter feelings between the two created an invisible wall leaving Orwell to be in the center of the situation. He hated the natives because he was receiving the bitter feelings from them, as it was towards the oppressive British empire.
Orwell didn’t fit in the society because even though he was a British officer, his insight of the empire was evil. As he described, you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters (750). As an officer, he saw the insight of cruelty that was enforced by the Britishers through the closed doors. Orwell never got himself involved between the two evils and only waited until his serving is over. However, he encounters one of the turning points in his life with the incident of the beast.
This defining moment drove Orwell into the standing position of choosing between two inexpedient alternatives. As the elephant in heat rampage through the village and resulted in killing a Coolie. Orwell exchanged his .44 rifle with an elephant gun, thus rose the Burmese expectation of a sahib. Seen from the circumference of the field, the elephant “must” had past and was in no harm. Nonetheless, an army of Burmese breathing heavily on Orwell’s shoulders assumed a show to go on. Giving him a standing position of being empowered, the growth of natives soon rattles him. Sighting the elephant peacefully eating grass, gave him the rationalization that he shouldn’t eliminate the elephant; as it was a priceless and beneficial beast.
He soon realized that it was a vital faux pas, for the firearm rendered the Burmese presumption. One choice was to let the beast live, following his morals, and abide the mockery of the Burmese. The other option was to omit his conscience and shoot the elephant. Orwell was conflicted as to choose between the life of the beast or his prestige. He must shoot the elephant in order to present a strong reputation: The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would pursued There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim (754). He didn’t focus on his conscience and acted upon the motivation from the thoughts of shame. The sound of the gunshots and the images of the beast slow death was still imprinted in his mind after many years. He was bothered by the fact that his pride was too high, causing him to ignore his morals.
Some choices are made by the expectations of others and not their morals. Those little trivial decisions can affect one’s life later in the years. When one encounters an elephant and is indecisive as to kill the beast in order to please the crowd or following one’s conscience but is a laughing stock. Whichever it may be, this will forever be imprinted in one’s mind.
Orwell Is Working As The Police
Orwell is working as the police officer of Moulmein, Burma, a British colony. In the eyes of the village, Orwell is, like the rest of the English, a military occupier, leaving him loathed by the majority of the village. Although the villagers never stage a revolt, they do express their repugnance by harassing Europeans at every given opportunity.
Orwell is tripped up during soccer games and insults are hurled at him as he patrols the streets of Moulmein. Even the young Buddhist priests torment Orwell. While Orwell may hold military supremacy and symbolic authority, he is still relatively powerless against the jargons and abuses he receives from the Burmese people.
Orwell is both theoretically and secretly on the Burmese side and is opposed to the domineering empire he serves, so the actions of the Burmese people confuse him. With his role of handling despicable prisoners, grants him a firsthand view of the dirty work of Europe, causing him to feel enormously guilty for his role in everything. This leads Orwell to contradictory thinking and causes him to pit different sets of his personal principles against each other. It is apparent that his morality starkly opposes the abuses that are caused by both his empire and his role within that empire. With his hasty bitterness of being humiliated, paired with a sense that those participating in this humiliating, should see him as their superior and their better. While Orwell considers the British Empire an immoral tyranny, he still despises the impudent Burmese who continue to make his time there, torture. Orwell even states that his mindset is one that is shared by many of the other officers in the British Raj.
Orwell’s story takes a turn when one day he receives a call from another policeman, informing Orwell that a rogue elephant has been rampaging through town. Orwell makes his way to where the elephant was last seen. En route, locals explain to Orwell that the elephant is having an outbreak of the must, when a tame elephant who is held in chains, breaks their restraints and goes berserk. This is where the elephant can be viewed as a symbol of colonialism. Much like the Burmese people who have been colonized and who also torment Orwell, the elephant has been provoked into this destructive behavior by being oppressed. As Orwell continues to track the elephant, he tries to make out what is what in this situation.
Much like is previous experiences in Asia, he is discovering that the story begins to make less sense as he gains more knowledge. In the same way, he does cannot comprehend precisely how he squeezes into the power dynamics of colonial Burma, Orwell struggles with finding a clear narrative of the elephant’s mysterious rampage. Clearly, colonialism and the power dynamics it involves are much too intricate to be withheld in a single straightforward point of view.
After finding a victim of the elephant lying dead in the mud, Orwell orders a subordinate to retrieve a firearm large enough to stop an elephant in its gigantic tracks. As the gun is brought to Orwell, he discovers that the elephant is in a nearby rice field. Now followed by almost the entire village, Orwell walks to the field. Even previously disinterested residents are now following after hearing of the weapon Orwell is carrying, wishing to see the great beast shot. Orwell’s feelings of discomfort become apparent as he had not planned on shooting the animal, he had simply wanted it as self-defense. However now with the pressure of the whole village weighing on him, it appears that the Burmese appear to wield the power over Orwell, undermining the colonial hierarchy.
Orwell no longer appears as an authoritative figure, rather a spectacle, he begins to sense he cannot completely control the situation he has been placed in. Orwell and the crowd enter the rice fields, only to discover a calm animal eating grass. Orwell compares killing an elephant to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery, and now looking at a peaceful animal, he comes to the decision that he cannot shoot it. Orwell empathizes with the oppressed Burmese, identifying that the elephant is a passive, peaceful creature that has been ushered into rebellion only by its maltreatment. Much like the elephant is to Orwell, Burma is essentially a valuable piece of property, yet another metaphorical link between colonialism and the peaceful elephant.
As the crowd grows to over two thousand people, Orwell feels as he is a magician tasked with entertaining his crowd, and comes to the conclusion that he is now obliged to shoot the elephant. By being placed in front of a crowd, Orwell has to take on a performative persona that makes him act opposite to every rational instinct within his body. Orwell states, when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. Realizing that he committed to killing the elephant the moment he spoke for the weapon to be brought. Orwell cannot tolerate mistreatment from the people, even though he realizes that he, a colonist, is in the wrong.
Orwell continues to fight his inner thoughts to kill the elephant. He says that it appears Grandmotherly to him killing it would be a waste of an expensive commodity, along with a form of murder. Orwell decides to approach the animal, putting himself in danger in order to see if the animal behaved aggressively, and if it did, he would shoot. Orwell’s fear of humiliation is now the driving force behind his decisions. It appears that the conventions of imperialism are what is causing Orwell to feel bound to perform such an inhumane and irrational deed. He loads the gun, lies down, and takes aim.
Orwell’s description of the elephant’s distress is unbearable, and Orwell is clearly emphasizing the barbarity of his actions. He depicts the elephant as almost most magnificent right as it falls with defeat, symbolizing its moment of bodily defeat, becoming a more powerful representation of the illogical viciousness of colonization. The way in which Orwell killed the elephant, is in the same as how the British are inhumane not out of necessity, but rather out of ignorance regarding both the land and the people it has colonized.
Orwell’s decision to kill the elephant was contentious. The owner of the Elephant was angry, with right. However, being Indian, had no legal right to react. Orwell continues to note that he is thankful that the elephant killed a man, giving his actions legal reasoning. Orwell even ponders if any the other police officers would understand that he killed the elephant solely to avoid looking like a fool. Orwell’s conclusion is that although logic can be paced into colonialism from afar, the real underlying inspiration of its savagery is the simple triumph of irrational uncertainty and the role-playing over ethics or human empathy.
Short Story Shooting An Elephant
The short story Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell takes place in British controlled India. Orwell was a police officer for the British, located in Lower Burma, and tensions between the Natives and the British ran high. Without Britain’s involvement in India, Orwell would not have felt the societal pressures to shoot the elephant.
The British had established themselves in India by the early 18th century, primarily from the British East India Company, whose primary exports were cotton cloth, opium, silk, and indigo dye. Once the French withdrew from India following the Seven Years War in 1763, the British had the full Ability to take control over India. Over the first half of the 19th century, the British colonized independent Indian territories until the last independent territory, the Punjab region, was seized in 1849. In an effort to regain control of their land, the Indian Mutiny occurred in 1857, but only resulted in increased control and the establishment of central administration. The British Raj was instituted in 1858 and lasted until 1947; during this time the British Empire had social, economic, and political control over India.
The story begins with I was hated by large numbers of people (Orwell 1). This sets the tone for the entire story, establishing the social tensions in the first sentence.
The British were hated among the Natives, and were openly targeted, according to Orwell. Although the British were the minority, they had the highest social status and disregarded the general caste system in India that was present before British colonization in regard to themselves. The caste system was set up into four separate castes: The highest is the Brahmans (priests and teachers). Second was the Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors). Followed by the Vaishyas (merchants and traders) and finally was the Sudras (workers and peasants) (Kuah 1). The Europeans were on top of any Native no matter their caste. Despite being the majority of the population, the Natives were too fearful to revolt. This created high social tensions between the two groups and were one of the primary reason’s Orwell felt he had to shoot the elephant.
George Orwell thought must he prove his authority and status as the only Non-native during the incident by shooting the animal unprovoked. Orwell states, Here was I, the white man with his gunseemingly the leader of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind he shall spend his life trying to impress the natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the natives’ expect of him(4).
The natives were going to judge Orwell for whatever choice he made; Britain’s need to emphasize their power through intimidation was a sign of their fear. This is the same fear George Orwell felt on a smaller scale. Orwell writes, I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behindA white man mustn’t be frightened in front of the ‘natives’; and so, in general, he isn’t frightened (5).