Destructive Colonization Exposed in Shooting an Elephant and Heart of Darkness
As a man is captured, his first instinct is to try and break free from his shackles and chains. Primal urges such as this often accompany humans when they are forced, as in capture, to rely on their most basic instincts to survive.
In this manner, natives in Africa acted upon instinct when the Europeans arrived to take their land and freedom. The short story Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell and the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad revolve around the time when colonialism had a foothold in many parts of the world. This setting is one of conflict with the native peoples in these countries who are fighting and rebelling against the colonizers. Building upon this, both authors instill in the protagonists a sense of the wrongs they, as an extension of colonialism, are doing. In Shooting an Elephant and the Heart of Darkness there is an ongoing struggle between society and natives which leads the main character to realize the destructive nature of colonization.
Each work is littered by destruction that comes in the forms of: a control over the native population; a need to keep order among the colony; and a mental destruction incurred from having views opposed to the ruling government’s. That each book denounces colonization is no surprise; but each present a conflict to make clear the protagonist’s struggle. In Shooting an Elephant, this conflict is between George Orwell and the natives over an unruly elephant, and in The Heart of Darkness the conflict is between Marlow and happenings on the river Congo.
Walking into such a wilderness must have been harrowing for even the toughest of individuals, however, with a gun and some ammunition, most colonizers found that the natives could be easily subdued. With this history of oppression, both George Orwell and Marlow are thrust into a period of unrest. This unrest needs to be subdued so that control will remain over the conquered. In this way, Orwell needed to exterminate an elephant because it had become wild and had killed a native man. However, the natives “had not shown much interest while [the elephant] was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that [the elephant] [is] going to be shot.” (Century, 146)
Shooting this elephant has much significance because it illustrates the control over the natives that the colonizers had. Orwell needed to kill the elephant in order to support his position of a law figure in his town. The elephant was unruly to begin with, but it also served as a reminder for Orwell’s constituents about who was in power, and who had control.
Control is also used in The Heart of Darkness when Marlow first sees a group of natives, “dying slowly- it [is] very clear”. They had “[become] inefficient” as Marlow states. Inefficient with the job and labor that was forced upon them by the colonizers. In this manner, it is evident that the...