Shooting an Imperialistic Elephant
In his essay "Shooting an Elephant" George Orwell brings out the impacts and flaws of an imperialistic governing system during the 1920s and raises the notion of self guilt and the conflict between the oppressed and the oppressors. The much older author depicts his experience of shooting a rogue elephant under compulsion, as a young British officer in colonial Burma. At first glance, the reader is acquainted with a mundane first-person account, but with repeated glances, one notices under-lying layers of intentions and paradoxes.This critical essay explores these intended social, psychological and ideological issues involved in shooting an animal and common flawed human behaviour of how much people want to be accepted for their identity and position and touches upon various significant symbolisms.
On a sociological level, there is a conflict between the master and the slave. And the narrator finds himself caught in between the Burmese and the imperialistic system. "I was hated by large numbers of people", he says and furthers concludes, "Anti-European feeling was very bitter." The narrator acknowledges such hatred and thinks it is justified as he describes the "dirty work of Empire at close quarters". One sees that he is faced with an emotional dilemma of being stuck between his own personal hatred towards his employers and his loath for the jeering locals, who put effort into making his employment particularly difficult.
Psychologically, the officer wants to be accepted by the Burmese for who he is. Ironically, this is not possible as in the bigger picture, one that is more relevant to the locals, he represents the evil imperialistic British empowerment. He can do nothing but dislike the British for giving him such an image. Although initially Orwell is the tormented foreign master, in the end he becomes the slave and buys his freedom by an act of killing.
His official position, rather than his moral disposition, obliges the narrator to act in the way that he does, so as to uphold his office precisely by keeping the native Burmese in their subordinate and dependent place. As a colonial official, Orwell must not let himself become a spectacle before the native crowds. Not shooting the elephant would make him seem like a coward, so he shoots the elephant. However his moral conscience appears in the moment when the corpse of the Burmese crushed by the elephant comes to his attention. The author dexterously uses persona as a rhetorical tool to establish a means of highlighting the changes in his mentality due to demanding and pressurising circumstances. Orwell says that the man lay sprawled in a ``crucified'' posture, invoking all of the poignant and rich symbolism that the term ``crucified'' offers. The elephant, too, especially in its pain-wracked death, evokes in the narrator feelings of terrible pity, not soothed by his...