Shooting an Elephant
A Constant Fight with the Society in Shooting an Elephant Essay
Fighting for Respect
Throughout history people in places of power have struggled to gain respect from those they rule over. Some leaders resort to gaining this respect through fear while others have found that this method results in an unhealthy relationship between a leader and his subjects. George Orwell wrote a first hand experience about his own struggle for respect amongst the Burmans in his short narrative Shooting an Elephant. He tells a story about his time as a police officer in Lower Burma. Orwell was appointed to this position by the British Empire who had taken control of the small asian country through an act of Imperialism. In this small community he has been given power over the Burmans and the responsibility of controlling their actions. When faced with the undertaking of calming a mad elephant his jurisdiction is challenged. He attempts to maintain his dignity while attempting to please the society. People like Orwell who have a self-imposed guise of authority tend to act against their own will to maintain their position.
Orwell struggles to find respect in a community that oppresses him. The Burmans resented British rule and from their perspective Orwell’s position of power over them meant nothing. They felt as though his presence was unnecessary and therefore there was a great sense of disrespect between the two cultures. The British has disrespected the country of Burma by thrusting their control over it, as if to say that they could rule it better than its own people. Burmans retaliated in the only way they could, they were vile to any Englishman they came across. This was the only way the could express their frustration. Orwell finds himself at a crossroads. He wants to please the Empire he serves but he also feeling sympathetic for the Burmans he was in charge of because of what imperialism has done to them. He expresses these feelings early on in the story “ I was stuck between my hatred of the Empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts” (Orwell 1). Their hatred for the British empire all comes out upon Orwell and he is jeered at wherever he goes. This kind of disrespect is seen in many relationships. In high school for example the juniors have no real authority over the grades below them. Yet they belittle the freshmen and sophomores simply because they believe that they have power over them. The grades below return the banter and create a very hostile environment because no one really has power. They are just competing for it in a match that neither can win. Just like the Burmans they see it as a foolish attempt to rule over them. Orwell represents imperialism for them because he is what they can see. Knowing nothing of the higher power above him, all their frustrations are put upon Orwell. Orwell is conflicted by this because he truly is on the Burmans side. He hates imperialism as much as they do but finds it hard to respect those who do not return it. The Burmans have grown to hate him which causes Orwell to put up a facade of strength to try and force them to respect him. This proves nothing to them and their actions of distaste towards Orwell continue.
He begins to search for approval by allowing others to influence his decisions. His sympathetic nature he has for the people he has been placed over allows them to manipulate him psychologically. Subconsciously he has become a crowd pleaser and allows the Burmans, that he has tried so hard to earn respect from, push him their way. As much as Orwell may believe he has power deep down he admits that “[he] was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of [the] yellow faces behind” (Orwell 2). While marching with the elephant rifle in his hands, the crowd eagerly followed him expecting Orwell to shoot the Elephant. Orwell was aware that the expectations of the crowd were high and he wants to please them to earn their approval. In this case he is displaying what can be related to peer pressure in todays society. Teenagers today will do anything to fit in whether it goes along with their morals or not. It becomes a problem when an individual begins to carry out actions simply to please others because they lose their own will. They become a hollow mold that is filled with what society deems to be cool and their opinion means nothing. He is being controlled by those around him who are influencing his decisions. Orwell describes this occurrence by saying “I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys” (Orwell 2). The freedom that he is describing is the freedom of his own will. He is supposed to be a cruel and oppressive ruler so because of this a tyrant will try to impress those that he rules. This adds to the loss of free will, when one is constantly trying to impress another they cease to have their own opinion. They instinctively conform to what the majority prefers. This phenomenon has had great effect on Orwell as he is pitted against himself and the people.
Ultimately Orwell makes a poor choice, because his motives became superficial and shallow. His wish was to gain approval from the Burmans that were watching his every move. He stated that if he did not shoot the elephant “the crowd would laugh at [him]. And [his] whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at” (Orwell, 3). Shooting the Elephant was a shabby attempt at gaining respect from the community he ruled over. Even though the Burmans hated all white men Orwell thought for maybe a moment they would relate with him. If he killed the elephant for them he thought maybe he could reverse their thinking and show them that he was on their side. From a moral standpoint, he was right in killing the Elephant. The beast had taken the life of a human which is far more valuable than that of an animals. So in that sense he was correct in his termination of the elephant because if any animal kills a human it is right to put that animal down without question. Unfortunately his only reason for killing the beast was to appease an audience. He gave in to the outside influence and made a rash decision.
Many people today could relate to Orwells struggle with the society he was living in. Individuals have been pressured to do things throughout history. Instead of shooting an elephant, today young adults may be pressured into drugs or alcohol. Being swayed by the crowd can be an easy thing to give into as Orwell has shown in his short narrative. After you do something against your conscience to please others you will always try to compensate your decision. You know what you did was wrong but you try to rationalize with yourself much like Orwell did. Slowly as one continues to make choices against his or her own will it becomes easier. The voice telling you something isn’t right gets quieter. Until your whole life feels as if it is run by an outside source. Even if you continue to do things to please others it will almost never actually gain you their respect. Orwell found this out the hard way by continuing to try and please the Burmans only to realize that they are filled with too much hate towards him. Orwell came to the realization that he had no real authority and his actions were completely led by those he supposedly ruled over.
A Narrator in Shooting an Elephant Essay
Shooting an Elephant – Humane, Empathetic, Just Narrator
Within George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant essay, the narrator is humane, empathetic, and just. The narrator is humane because, bearing in mind the owner’s welfare; he is unwilling to kill a particular elephant. This narrator is also empathetic; he cannot endure watching the elephant as it experiences slow death. Moreover, the narrator is fair; he takes issue with the substandard housing facilities provided by the British government to a Burmese police officer. This essay analyses the narrator’s behavior within Shooting an Elephant is humane, empathetic, and just.
The narrator is humane because he is reluctant to kill a particular elephant, taking into consideration the owner’s welfare. To this end, the narrator explains that this elephant is worth about one hundred Great Britain pounds (Orwell). Given this great value, the narrator does not want to shoot the elephant. The narrator’s reluctance is informed by his concern about the welfare of the elephant’s owner. If this elephant dies, the owner would incur losses amounting to a minimum of one hundred Great Britain pounds. This discussion confirms that the narrator within Shooting an Elephant is humane.
Further, the narrator is empathetic; he is unable to withstand watching the elephant’s slow death process. In this regard, upon noticing that the wounded elephant is struggling to breathe, the narrator leaves the spot where this animal is lying (Ibid.). Through this action, the narrator illustrates that he identifies with the suffering that the elephant is experiencing. It is as if the elephant’s suffering is the narrator’s own. Such emotional connection causes the narrator to leave the area where the elephant is lying. From this discussion, it is evident that the narrator is empathetic toward the elephant.
The narrator is also just; he challenges the fact that the British government has provided a particular Burmese police officer with substandard housing facilities. On this note, the narrator reports that this Burmese police officer works within quarters made of neglected thatched bamboo houses (Ibid.). It is thematically important that the narrator describes the condition of the Burmese police officer’s office quarters. The narrator’s description implies that British police officers do not work within such rundown quarters. Being a British police officer, the narrator must be well aware of the condition of his own office quarters. With this information in mind, it is clear that the narrator describes the Burmese police officer’s office quarters to criticize the British government. In other words, the narrator wants the British government to offer the same quality of office quarters to both Burmese and British police officers. By rooting for fairness with regard to provision of office quarters, the narrator demonstrates that he is just.
In conclusion, Shooting an Elephant, the narrator is humane, empathetic, and just. The narrator is humane because he considers the welfare of the owner of an elephant and is thus reluctant to kill this animal. The narrator is further empathetic because he refuses to watch as the elephant experiences slow death. Moreover, the narrator is just; he encourages the British government to provide the same quality of office quarters to both British and Burmese police officers. It is critical that Orwell depicts the narrator, a symbol of British oppression in Burma, in positive light. To obtain enlightening insights, a reader would study Orwell’s other colonialist literature to find out how this author depicts representatives of the imperial British government.
Actions and Their Justification in Shooting an Elephant Essay
In George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” narrative, I believe he was completely justified in the actions he had taken. He had to do his duty as a British subdivisional police officer in Lower Burma and he couldn’t afford to look weak in front of the native Burmese people who already had a mistrust and disliking of him because of the fact that he was European.
If he had not done what he had done then it could’ve caused more damage and the people would’ve hated him even more than they already did.
Orwell’s narration describes tension in Burma at this time and their hatred for the British occupiers. He mentions how despite that, he still sympathized with them against the British Empire which he also did not care for. Word comes around to him that an elephant had gone “must” and had escaped it’s chains and was rampaging through the village. He searched for the elephant while not getting any clear answers from the people as to where the elephant was. Eventually he found the corpse of an Indian man that was killed by the elephant. Now he knew that it was close by so he called for his rifle and a crowd of Burmans started gathering around when they thought that he planned on shooting the elephant which excited them. In his head he did not plan on shooting the elephant but wanted his rifle just in case he had no other choice. Orwell found the elephant in a field and ironically it looked very calm, though he did not know much about elephants and didn’t know for sure if it was still in “must”. One of the locals told him that he’d have to approach it and see how it reacts. He wanted to do that however he wasn’t too sure of himself and did not want to send it back into a rampage with the huge crowd watching and feared they would see him be trampled to death, which would be highly embarrassing. Eventually he fired at the elephant but it did not die, the crowd cheered. He kept firing at the animal to try and put it down, but it still would not die and guilt swept over Orwell. The crowd raced past him to be in lines to carve the elephant up for the meat. Orwell said it took nearly half an hour for the elephant to finally die.
George Orwell does an excellent job of setting up the time and place for this narrative. “In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves” (Orwell, 620). Shows how the Burmans deeply hated the British occupiers in Burma and did not respect them. “All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the Empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.” (Orwell, 620). This shows how Orwell did not care for his role that he played in Burma and while he did sympathize with the Burmans, he did not like them because they made his job harder on him. George Orwell states in his narrative that one thing he learned during this ordeal was that by being the occupier in Burma, the irony was that he was a pawn to both the will of the British Empire and the people he has to police over or else the peace would be lost. “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.” (Orwell, 623). The epiphany he experiences is very important because he realizes that he has no real control over what happens, he has to do his job and do the will of the native people, and thus the epiphany is one of the factors that pushed him to actually shoot the elephant, because he basically had no choice.
I believe Orwell’s purpose was to show the folly of trying to control others. His epiphany was that although he was the subdivisional police officer in the region, he was a puppet of the masses and the will of the Empire. The more control the Empire would try to put down onto people, the more the people like him who were tasked with dealing with the people directly would be in situations like he describes in the narrative, where he has to go along with the crowd as to maintain control, though he personally never really had any control. The narrative was most likely intended for the people back home in Britain that were well read so that they could understand more clearly what imperialism was like abroad and the experiences of British soldiers and police officers that had to deal with the native populations. I can relate somewhat to Orwell in that I work as a server and sometimes I have to deal with rude customers but I have to remain polite and provide good service both for the good tip and because the company would fire me if I was rude back. That is very similar to the rude Burmans Orwell had to deal with but had to still do his duty or be reprimanded by the Empire.
Orwell was justified in shooting the elephant, he needed to do so in order to keep the order with the people. Even though he did not want to go through with it if he had not, and it was still in “must” and it attacked, then any more deaths would be on his hands, or if it had killed him then the Burmans would all see it as they had crowded around. He was legally obligated to shoot the elephant as he states, “I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it.” (Orwell, 625). In the end it was his duty, though it was also the pressure from the crowds that ultimately pushed him into action.
The Theme of Choice in “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell
Unexpected alternatives one is made to make can have long-lasting problems. In “Shooting an Elephant,” by George Orwell, the main character the police officer must make a choice that well choose less of two evils carry with pride or go with shame. This choice that the offcer makes well bothers him in his mind and body.
The theme of this story takes place at some time during the five unhappy years the officer spends as a British enforcer of the law in Burma. He dislikes his place in life when faced with a internal predicament. Well he kills the elephant for pride of well he let it live so he can be brought down with shame by the indigenous. This unhappy sour officer dislikes the Burmese he dislikes his law enforcing job he is also not a fan of British imperialism. The officer is completely alone with his internal thoughts since he cannot attach his idea’s that “imperialism was an evil thing” with his countrymen. He sees the British rule as a disgrace of his own culture, because he observes firsthand the cruel imprisonments and whippings that the British use to lay upon their control. Nor can he talk to the Burmese because of the “utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East.” This “utter silence” results from the reasoning behind imperialism. Which is, my culture is more superior in every way, and it will over take yours. My cultures intelligence, power and influence shall never be judged. A wall, invisible but impenetrable, stands between the British and the Burmese. His hatred for the Burmese is caused by their distasteful feelings against the oppression of the British. The officer is stuck between his hatred of the empire his rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.” Helping to oppress the Burmese causes him to feel guilty and to hate his job “more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear.” While standing in this quagmire of hatred, The officer encounters one of the defining moments of his life. Each person must make hard judgments in the mazes of everyday life.
Decisions that seem questionable at the time may have its affects in one’s life for years. Sometimes the choice is whether to meet the expectations of others or to meet the expectations of the conscience. One’s maturity is measured when one encounters the elephant and decides to shoot it to please the crowd, or to not shoot it and appear to be weak. Either choice may follow one to the grave.
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.
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.