Literary Analysis: George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”

One of the most notable points to admire throughout Orwell’s piece is the conflict. Throughout the story, he is plagued with conflict, from his role as a police officer for an imperialist British government, to his decision to shoot the elephant. Throughout his entire essay, Orwell was in a position he did not want to be in and was forced to do something he did not want to, all for the sake of meeting the responsibility or laws at hand.  He followed the orders, even though he knew those very orders came at a detriment.  This is evident in, “… 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” (43) and “… but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind” (45). Conflict is a powerful element in any genre, and Orwell’s heavy conflict throughout his piece was very powerful and memorable.

Another powerful point to admire is Orwell’s composure during a time of imperialism and racism. It is clear that racism was an issue at the time, as evident in “… the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie … any damn Coringhee coolie” (47).  With Orwell’s position of authority and power, he could have easily fallen into this type of mindset and devalued the life of the slain man, but he did not. He approached the situation as an unfortunate event, despite the race of the victim. He also could have developed an imperialist mindset just like the British, but he developed sympathy for the Burmese, and a reluctance for his position. That kind of restraint and composure is an admirable thing for an authoritative figure, especially for a representative of an imperialist government. Orwell developed a wise and empathic perspective that is both memorable and admirable.

 

Works Cited

Orwell, George.  “Shooting An Elephant.”  Creative Nonfiction: A Guide to Form, Content, and Style, with Readings. Ed. Eileen Pollock.  Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. 43-47. Print.

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