George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant’ seeks to portray thepolitical and social strife that arises from white supremacy, throughpractices such as imperialism and tyrannical rule. It reveals thestruggle of a British police who regularly faced anti-Europeanfeelings of Burmese people, in his duty to protect them, and perhapstheir rights. Simply put, the story reveals the effects ofimperialism to the colonialists, the natives and apparently theelephant.
In the story, Orwell is a British colonial police in Burma who notonly feel rejected and disrespected but is also ignored by theBurmese natives during when on duty. Despite such treatment, deepinside his knew that he was “for the Burmese and against theBritish who were oppressors” (Orwell 1). The reason for this isthat British dominated the economic, political, and social life oftheir conquered lands.
On this one day, Orwell received news of an elephant that “had gonemust,” and ravaging the Indian bazaar. As police, he feltresponsible for the people’s safety and responded with intentionsto kill the elephant. The events took place in the East, Moulmeinlower Burma where Orwell shot the elephant several times until itcould not stand. He left, and the owner of the elephant came.Although the owner was furious, “he could do nothing” (Orwell 6).Orwell only felt pity that both the elephant and the Indians arehelpless from the European Imperialism
Orwell uses a strong language of unending Irony and vivid descriptionof the single element of action happening in the story. For instance,he explains how he had become important to the Burmese people forthey hated him. Such ironical statements not only made the storyinteresting to a reader but also emphasized on the psychological“by-products of Imperialism” (Orwell 2). Also, Orwell is perfectin describing the event in the story. For example, when describingthe fall of the elephant, he narrated the effects of his third shotby saying “you could see the agony of it jolt his whole body andknock the last remnant of strength from his legs.” (Orwell 5).These enabled the reader to gain a clear picture of every action.
The Authors purpose and Achievement
Orwell wrote the story to not only reveal the suffering of theIndians in Burma due to British imperialism but also how theimperialists suffered. In the story, Orwell is determined to make theright decision, and he goes through a difficult time to achieve. Evenafter shooting the elephant, not all people felt his actions werejustified. The author’s intended achievement is to downplay theconcept of white supremacy. Consequently, he successfully does so byrevealing the selfish motives behind it, and more so the unnecessaryfatal impacts it causes to the society in general.
Response to the Story
In reality, events in shooting an elephant are evident in oursocieties today and have significant meaning in our lives. People inmany nations especially the developing suffers due to unnecessaryactions by those in power (Fletcher 82). Corruption, violation ofhuman rights, and deprivation of important amenities are impacts ofbad governance (Fletcher 15). At a personal level, people arecompelled to act for pride and prestige in the same way Orwell isconvinced that shooting an elephant will not make him a fool.
In brief, the story depicts our modern societies that are torn aparton racial and political grounds. As a result, it becomes a realitythat everyone is impacted though differently. Evidently, Orwell as acolonial police suffers due to mass rejection. Even when makingdecisions, he is afraid of the outcome to the people, fellowimperialist and himself. This brings the need to end neocolonialismto improve people’s living standards.
Fletcher,Kingsley Aterh, "Perceptions of Contemporary Eﬀectsof Colonialism among Educational Professionals in Ghana" (2013).
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. 1st ed. London: Penguin,2003. Print.