The story starts with a description of the zoo director. “He regards his animals simply as stepping stones of his career. He is careless about the educational value of his establishment.” Being in a remote town the zoo is not funded and therefore was “lacking all the important animals”; basically all they had were surplus. Alas, the zoo’s anniversary is vast approaching, for they are getting an elephant! Instead of rejoicing the director was thinking of his career and decided to write a letter to Warsaw refusing the governments offer. He said that he has a more economical plan and would save the government a lot of money.
Upon hearing the ministries approval the zoo director directed his men to blow up a large elephant-shaped and elephant-sized balloon. Being lazy, these men filled the elephant with gas instead of air, this later proved to be unwise. The following morning, the balloon was placed in front of a large real rock and a big notice said that the elephant is very sluggish and it hardly ever moves. The scheme works fine until later, a gust of wind blows the elephant away. This is a story is a good portrayal of the 1960’s Polish Communism.
I have experiences that could be likened to the story. I have seen corruption destroy a nation. Public servants are being served and spoon fed while the citizens are working like ants, barely surviving. What is this all for? To pay taxes, which in turn are the public servants salary, money often squandered for their own social lives. Instead of them trying to serve us, we the citizens serve them. These heartless, conscienceless, corrupt officials do not serve the public at all; all they long for is the fame, glamour and the money. Being corrupt, projects are being compromised “They connected the elephant to the gas pipe, turned the valve and to their joy in a few minutes there was a full sized beast standing in the shed. It looked real.”
As a result, the public gets hurt. Roads, bridges, dams, public infrastructures are being built faster and with sub-standard materials, which like the balloon elephant breaks easily. It is completely a waste of people’s money and time. These officials think that they could fool the public by replicating the “real thing” but in all reality they are only making fools out of themselves. They do not deserve to be where they are now.
The part that I liked most is when “A slight breeze moved the branches of the trees in the zoo…. At that moment the elephant shuddered and rose in the air.” This passage tells us there is no secret that could be hidden forever. No matter how well you keep it, in time it will be exposed. It is better to tell the truth now, rather than suffer in shame later. After all honesty is the best policy. We as humans, especially Christians should strive to be Christ like and avoid lies.
In conclusion, I find The Elephant to be very amusing and at the same time informative. This story is well written by Slawomir Mrozek. Like W.D. Valgardson, Mrozek uses a lot of symbolism which helps the reader to understand his message.