Analytical Summary Shooting an Elephant
Shooting an Elephant, written by George Orwell, is a short autobiographical essay about an incident that occurred during the time of his service as a police officer in Burma. The essay is centered around an event in which Orwell was forced to shoot an elephant against his own wishes. Using this episode which resulted in the clash between his own personal beliefs and the expectations of those around him, Orwell sends a message that imperialism is a lose-lose game that hurts the oppressed, as well as the oppressor. Furthermore, he indirectly advises the readers to act according to one’s personal wishes, not those of others.
The essay starts with the description that the narrator, Orwell, is a sub-division police officer in Burma. Orwell is hated by the natives in midst of the anti-European sentiment, and he faces constant jeering and insults from the Burmese people. This is quite unfortunate because on the inside, he actually feels sympathetic towards them and declares that imperialism is evil. This is because during the many years of service, he has witnessed the inhumane treatment of prisoners and numerous other dirty works done by the British Empire. However Like every other Englishmen in the East, there is nothing he can do since he is stuck in the middle between the empire he hates and the natives who hate him.
One day, an incident shakes up his monotonous life. Orwell receives a desperate call from a Burmese sub-inspector at the other end of the town, requesting for an immediate aid to take care of an elephant that has gone crazy. Orwell fetches an old .44 Winchester rifle and heads toward the region where the elephant was last reported to be seen. On his way, he hears that the elephant that was causing trouble was actually a tamed elephant that went mad due to ‘must.’ He also learns that it had already wreaked massive havoc among the Burmese villages. Upon his arrival, he is perplexed at the conflicting testimonies of the natives, making him think that this incident is just a hoax. At that very moment, he sees a corpse of man that the elephant had trampled upon. Realizing the severity of the situation, he sends an orderly to get an elephant rifle and heads towards a paddy field where the elephant rests, followed by a large crowd of people.
To his surprise, the elephant is shockingly quiet and peaceful; this makes Orwell lose the will to kill the beast. However, he realizes that the massive crowd, which was growing around him, was eagerly waiting for him to shoot the elephant. Faced with a dilemma, Orwell ponders for a while, but succumbs to the pressure and shoots the elephant numerous times in order to save face. Unable to see the suffering animal die, he leaves the scene. His decision to shoot the elephant turns out to be controversial among his peers; older men supported his decision, while the younger men argued that a coolie wasn’t worthy enough to justify killing an elephant....