Shooting an Elephant essays

Imagine having to live a life based on the government’s unjust decisions, societal pressure, and having to put personal beliefs aside. George Orwell describes, in his short story “Shooting an Elephant,” a life-changing experience of being a police officer for the British Raj in colonial Burma and having to choose from your own beliefs and the governments. This story explains the narrator’s conflict after he has been informed that an elephant is on the loose. The essay explores the process through which he makes his decision. The essay describes Orwell’s feelings: “And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibility” (Orwell). The description of his feelings emphasizes the conflict in which he finds himself. Orwell’s essay provides a lens through which the reader can understand the challenges of the British Raj. Through the characterization of his narrator and symbolism, Orwell demonstrates the effects of societal pressure and government corruption, ultimately suggesting that even people in power do not have the freedom to make their own decisions.

An Analysis of Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”
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In "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell finds himself in a difficult situation involving an elephant. The fate of the elephant lies in his hands. Only he can make the final decision. In the end, due to Orwell's decision, the elephant lay dying in a pool of blood. Orwell wins the sympathy of readers by expressing the pressure he feels as an Anglo-Indian in Burma, struggling with his morals, and showing a sense of compassion for the dying animal. Readers sympathize…...
Shooting An Elephant
Main Idea and Purpose for Shooting an Elephant by Orwell
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The main idea of the story “Shooting an Elephant" by Orwell is the effect of the oppressor is not only on the oppressed, but himself. There are several evidences found in the text to support the main idea. First, the author mentioned about the treatment of a European woman gets when she went to bazaars alone. This explained the freedom of security had been taken away. Since European had colonized Burma at that time, there was growing hatred toward European.…...
DronesShooting An Elephant
Shooting an Elephant
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In this essay, Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell, comes face to face with the effects of peer pressure and imperialism. While under constant scrutiny by the people who did not want to be ruled, he felt “stuck between the hatred of the empire I serve and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible” (Orwell). George finds himself in an impossible situation of what he feels is right and what the people expect from…...
Shooting An Elephant
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Literary Analysis of ”Shooting an Elephant”
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Task 2.1: An analysis of ”Shooting an Elephant”, by George Orwell. This non-fiction essay is a report of George himself shooting an elephant. He is a sub-divisional police officer of the town Moulmein in lower Burma. It is here he experiences a kill of an elephant. And it is not just a kill, he kills it with a rifle in front of about two thousands Indians. The elephant had gone savage and rampaged homes and killed men. Orwell reports an…...
Shooting An Elephant
George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant: Insights on Imperialism, Ethical Conflicts and Fear of Judgment
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George Orwell's essay "Shooting an Elephant," introduces an intriguing insight on imperialism, ethical disputes and fear of judgement through the inner functions of a European law enforcement officer provided the intense task of handling an elephant in musk within Moulmein, in lower Burma. Imperialism, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, reads that Imperialism is "a policy of extending a nation's power and influence through colonization, usage of military force, or other methods." Interestingly, Orwell shows imperialism in his work…...
ConflictEthicsFearImperialismPhilosophyShooting An Elephant
Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant: Reflections on Imperialism
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During the years (1823-1886) as British Empire had control over Burma, a British Indian Imperial Authorities named George Orwell composed an impressive essay/story through which he expressed the morality of British Imperialism and the hatred of the Burmese towards this Empire. Using a particular kind of language has made this story different from others. Using importance and metaphors is one of the most crucial uses of language that Orwell uses to explain the relationship of himself with the elephant and…...
ImperialismShooting An Elephant
Orwell: Shooting An Elephant – analysis paper
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Prompt 3 “Read carefully paragrphs 11-13 of Orwells Shooting An Elephant. THen write a well-organized essay explaining how the author uses stylistic devices and rhetoical strategies to convey his attitude toward the shooting of the elephant. Elephants were once, and are currently, considered prized possessions in some parts of the world. The taming of these majestic creatures dates all the way back to BC and, since then, elephants have continued to hold high value especially ceremonially, labor-wise, and culturally. But,…...
EssayShooting An Elephant
Compassion & Forgiveness in Macbeth & The Kite Runner
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Conflicts are typical in people’s everyday lives. Conflicts are inevitable and even healthy when dealt with appropriate circumstances. The theme of conflict has been represented throughout Macbeth and The Kite Runner novel. Macbeth’s play stands out as one of the shortest tragic plays staged on an ambitious conflict of Macbeth’s internality. The play had been produced in various versions since its first production a long time ago. The play is based on a brave Scottish general that receives his prophecy…...
ForgivenessMacbethPersonal GrowthShooting An ElephantThe Kite Runner
Heart of Darkness Imperialism, Hegemony, and Othering
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Narrative of Thought I remember when I first read Heart of Darkness. I was a sophomore in high school when I had been required to read it. I remember when I got it. I thought to myself that it might be a cool book. I read the first five pages and wanted to throw it the window. It was confusing, frustrating and a little weird. Eventually I did read it. The more I read the more it made sense. When…...
Free WillGreedHeart Of DarknessImperialismShooting An Elephant
The Problem of Imperialism
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The British Empire, was so vast it was dubbed the empire on which 'the sun never sets'. The grim truth is that it became so at the expense of thousands upon thousands of destroyed natives' lives and subjugating whole cultures. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines imperialism as 'the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas', with…...
ImperialismShooting An Elephant
Mohandas Ghandi’s Resistance speech
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Wide spectrums of attitudes arise when comparing and contrasting the writings of Gandhi and George Orwell. The oppressive British system of government in India provides the motive for Gandhi's "Defending Nonviolent Resistance" speech. George Orwell conveys peevishness of the same system--the British government by the shooting of an elephant and the repercussions of the event. The overall attitude in Orwell's Shooting an Elephant leans toward resentment of both government and murder, while the overall attitude in Gandhi's Defending Nonviolent Resistance…...
EthicsGandhiGeorge OrwellLeo TolstoyLiteratureNonviolence
“Two Views Of Mississippi” by Mark Twain
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In "Two Views of the Mississippi" by Mark Twain, the author recounts his ability to recognize and appreciate beauty in his surroundings early in his career as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, in contrast to his perceptions later in life. He recalls a specific sunset journey where he is able to revel in the brilliance of the river surrounding him, taking note of the small details including the distant golden glow of the water; the simple, yet remarkable…...
Mark TwainShooting An Elephant
The Elephant Man
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Throughout the beginning of Frederick Treves’s The Elephant Man, the character of John Merrick was simply a man that never got the chance to live a normal life. From the day he was born, his unfortunate physical deformities led him through a never ending cycle of ridicule, repudiation, and distress. This “monster” was considered to be a “burden that must be rid of” (185) for the greater portion of his being, compelling him to prefer a life of isolation rather…...
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We've found 13 essay examples on Shooting An Elephant
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Orwell’s Experience in Burma

The characterization of Orwell’s experience demonstrates the ongoing pressure of societal expectations through Orwell’s role as a police officer. Orwell describes his experience deciding whether or not he should shoot the elephant. By describing his role as “the white man with his gun standing in front of the unarmed native crowd-seemingly the leading actor of the piece” Orwell provides his readers with the idea that he is supposed to have the power and be in charge, however that is not the reality (Orwell). Orwell goes on to say, “in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind” (Orwell). The additional description explains to the reader the truth of the situation, which is that white officers are pressured to make decisions based off of the natives. Orwell expresses his role in society is to look as if he has the power, but his real role is to follow the natives’ rules. James Tyner’s analysis of “Shooting an Elephant” emphasizes the corruption of the society’s expectation of roles as a whole. He states, “In his work Orwell wrote about the connections of self and humanity of the experiences of living in dehumanizing environments” (Tyner 266). Tyner’s description helps readers understand Orwell’s characterization of his experience. Living in a dehumanizing environment affected Orwell’s self and humanity. The pressure he experienced to fulfill his role as an officer by shooting the elephant resulted in him losing his humanity.

How British Empire Treats the Natives

The pressure that Orwell experiences while trying to maintain his role in society is symbolized through the shooting of the elephant. Orwell states, “To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing-no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, everyone white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at” showing the corrupt expectation of roles in society (Orwell). By describing his experience, Orwell compares shooting the elephant with how the British Empire treats the natives. Shooting the elephant was a difficult experience for Orwell, his description of this situation showed him how much power the Empire had over the locals. The natives had no control, freedom or say over their countries’ decisions. In order to maintain control, the government had to escalate the amount of violence against natives. The way the elephant was killed, so violently, parallels how the empire needs to subdue the native people through violence. In his critical analysis of “Shooting an Elephant,” Thomas Bertonneau explains Orwell’s symbolism of his expectations of the corrupt society’s roles: “‘Shooting an Elephant’ depicts a cycle of resentment and violence, in part obvious, in part subtle. Obvious is the fact that, oppressing the Burmese, the British incur their righteous wrath” (Bertonneau 262). Bertonneau emphasizes the violence the empire uses to get what they want. He takes Orwell’s story and expands its lesson to explain the oppressive pattern of British rule. Bertonneau conveys the larger implications of the story in order to show his readers that Orwell’s essay addresses a larger issue in society. Throughout the story, Orwell illustrates that the empire is constantly using violence to maintain the appearance of authority. Orwell feels forced to shoot the elephant due to the pressure of his role in this cycle of violence and oppression.

The Narrator’s Function

Orwell shows the corruption of the government through the characterization of his narrator. Throughout the story, Orwell uses the description of the narrator’s experience to emphasize the presence of corruption in the society and government. Orwell provides the narrator’s opinion on the British Empire: “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” (Orwell). Orwell further demonstrates the disconnect between the narrator’s personal beliefs and his later actions. The narrator clearly disagrees with his position of power. However, he recognizes that in order to maintain this power he has to fulfil the expectations that the government assigns him. Despite his personal feelings, Orwell understands, “It is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’ and so in every crisis he had got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him” (Orwell). Orwell acknowledges that he has no real authority. In order to maintain his role he must keep up the appearance of the British Empire’s command. By reframing his role in terms of the expectations of the natives,

Orwell describes the reality of his relationship with the people that he is expected to govern. By doing so, Orwell emphasizes the corruption and ineffectiveness of the British Empire. To illustrate this, Orwell provides his readers with specific examples on the corruption within the society and government. Peter Marks’ analysis of “Shooting an Elephant” asserts, “The narrator’s function as the personification of imperialism is seen clearly in the revelatory claim that ‘when white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom the he destroys.’ This appears to indict imperialism, to provide an index of its dehumanizing impact” (Marks 265). Marks specifically illustrates that Orwell is criticizing imperialism by identifying its effect on those in power. In doing so, Orwell emphasizes the corruption of the British Raj by demonstrating that even those who should supposedly benefit from British rule are victims of imperialism.

Poor Treatment of Prisoners

Orwell demonstrates the power and corruption of the government through the symbol of the beaten prisoner. In Orwell’s story he provides a variety of symbols to describe the corruption within the government and society. Orwell illustrates, “The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos-all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt” (Orwell). Orwell uses the symbolism of the prisoner to show the government’s power through the abuse of its citizens.

Throughout this sentence Orwell describes the state of the cages, the prisoners’ poor health and how they are being treated to provide context for the cruelty of the British Empire. He hates to be part of a government that treats their people so poorly. He states, “In a job like that you can see the dirty work of the Empire at close quarters” (Orwell). Orwell expresses his distaste for the violence of the British empire, using the beaten flesh of the prisoner to symbolize the power of the government. Through his use of symbolism, Orwell illustrates that there are daily reminders of the corruption of the Empire, and the resentment that British rule brings. Similarly, in his analysis Bertonneau explains, “‘Shooting an Elephant’ depicts a cycle of resentment and violence, part obvious, in part subtle. Obvious is the fact that, in oppressing the Burmese, the British incur their righteous wrath” (Bertonneau 262). Bertonneau’s critical analysis summarizes Orwell’s use of the beating of the prisoner to symbolize the violence of the British Empire as a whole. He describes that shooting the elephant represents the dissatisfaction and cruelty of the government. Bertonneau explains that because the government had to maintain the use of cruelty on their society, the people started rebelling and lost all of their respect for the Empire. Orwell describes the presence of the beaten prisoners as if it is a routine occurrence, highlighting the pervasive corruption of the government’s power.

Usage of Symbols Showing Government Corruption

George Orwell uses the symbols of shooting the elephant, the image of the beaten prisoner, and the characterization of his narrator’s experience to show the societal pressure and the corrupt government he experienced in Burma. Orwell’s characterization of the narrator’s experience illustrates the effect of societal pressure on those in power during British rule. The shooting of the elephant symbolizes his role in society. Orwell’s characterization of the narrator demonstrates the corruption within the government. His use of symbolism shows the power within the British Raj through the beaten prisoner. Through this symbolism and characterization, Orwell’s short story, “Shooting an Elephant” is demonstrative of what was happening throughout the British Empire. The British Raj used cruelty and violence to keep their power, which resulted in hostility and bitterness from the people. Orwell experienced the reality of living life where he had to put his personal beliefs aside and deal with the government’s unfair decisions. In the end, Orwell was upset and humiliated, he felt foolish and uncomfortable with how his government acted. Orwell’s larger message was this type of power, the absolute rule, is not the way to live one’s life.

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