Orwell's To Shoot An Elephant Analysis

1070 words - 4 pages

Roger PadillaEnglish 101-089/03/2014George Orwell's Shooting An Elephant is an essay about an encounter with an elephant that metaphorically represents his views on Imperialism and human nature. George Orwell begins the essay by first claiming his perspective on British Imperialism. He is bitter about the occupation of Burma by the British and even goes on to describe Imperialism as inherently evil. Orwell is a British officer at the time in Burma that was heavily conflicted about his stance on Imperialism as noted in the passage, "All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible." (Orwell, 1)The reader can note that Orwell's character is weak as he was constantly berated by Burmese specifically noting Buddhist priests as the worst culprits. George Orwell states, "I was hated by large numbers of people - the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me." (Orwell, 1) He often made comparisons that demonstrate his weakness describing himself as a conjurer about to perform a trick, the leading actor of a piece, and an absurd puppet that is pushed around by the natives. His weakness in character can later be attributed to his actions concerning the elephant.The elephant is a metaphor that symbolizes British Imperialism in Burma. Burma was the subject of three wars with the United Kingdom that resulted in the British taking control of the country in 1886. The elephant also represents the destructive power of imperialism by going on a rampage destroying food stalls, homes and even killing a black Dravidian coolie. After encountering the mangled body of the black Dravidian coolie, Orwell sent an orderly to a friend's house to borrow an elephant rifle for protection. At this point, Orwell feels the collective will of the crowd urging him to shoot the elephant, but Orwell, knowing that the elephant is probably no longer dangerous, has no intention of shooting the elephant. Against his will and moral belief he ultimately shoots the elephant to satisfy the crowd whilst realizing the double edged sword of imperialism.In George Orwell's essay, he writes "When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick…I fired again into the same spot…I fired a third time. That was the shot that did it for him." Each shot represents a different war that the British have waged against the Burmese people. The elephant is a symbol of Burma and its struggle to remain alive. The death of the elephant could also symbolize the decline of the British rule in Burma. Orwell displays guilt as he sees the elephant withering in pain as he had failed to deliver a lethal shot. Orwell states, "It seemed dreadful to see the great beast Lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him." (Orwell, 4) Orwell attempted to justify his actions by stating he had legally done the...

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