“Shooting the Elephant” a Story by George Orwell Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 28th, 2020

The protagonist in the story is a young police officer stationed in Burma. He is facing the biggest challenge of his career because a rogue elephant is wreaking havoc in a poor village, close to where he has been stationed. The antagonist is the British colonial administration, whose oppressive rule in the country has made natives resent its authority (Orwell, 2013)..

The story is set in a small urban quarter in Burma, inhabited by poor natives. They use tamed elephants to perform labor-intensive tasks. They live in squalid conditions and do not have access to basic amenities. This setting shows the country’s imperial rulers are not doing enough to improve the living standards of natives in the country. This setting shows the failure of the British administration to help natives live a comfortable life (Orwell, 2013).

The protagonist is facing a psychological conflict because if he kills the elephant, its owner will suffer a major economic loss. He realizes that laws put in place by the British administration are not favorable to many native Burmese. The story highlights the consequences of British imperial rule in the country. Native Burmese resent British imperial rule because it restricts their freedom (Orwell, 2013).

The narrator is considerate because he does not want to kill the elephant, yet he sympathizes with the plight of the man trampled to death by the beast. He is isolated because he is mocked by natives behind his back whenever he meets them. He becomes remorseful after shooting the elephant, which is a valuable asset to its owner, even though it threatened the lives of many people.

The British imperial administration is a symbol of oppression for many natives. The young narrator takes note of the fact that a tamed elephant is a revered asset in the country because it helps natives perform many difficult tasks. The narrator also describes the way he resents Buddhist priests, which shows that many natives have strong faith in Buddhist religious teachings (Orwell, 2013).

Orwell uses the chilly and gloomy weather in the morning to set the tone for events that are going to take place later in the day (2013). He shows how the imperial administration is not concerned about the plight of natives. This is revealed through convicted prisoners who are confined in inhumane living conditions. He feels he is made to bear the burden of misguided policies because his duties entail cracking down on any form of dissent from natives.

The story shows many flaws in British policies, which deny natives an opportunity to live freely in their own country. The elephant metaphorically refers to the British administration’s oppression of natives, who resent its authority. This makes natives live a life full of desolation (Orwell, 2013).

The narrator argues that the elephant is out of control and has to be killed to prevent it from causing more damage. The elephant has already killed one man, which gives him a strong justification to end its life.

Orwell means that despotic governments do not hesitate to use violence and force to make ordinary citizens submit to their authority. The elephant incident is used allegorically to show that administrative power should not be used unnecessarily unless there is a threat to law and order in an area (Orwell, 2013).


Orwell, G. (2013). Shooting an elephant. The Literature Network. Web.

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