Critical Analysis of Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
"Shooting an Elephant" is perhaps one of the most anthologized essays in the English language. It is a splendid essay and a terrific model for a theme of narration. The point of the story happens very much in our normal life, in fact everyday. People do crazy and sometimes illegal moves to get a certain group or person to finally give them respect. George Orwell describes an internal conflict between his personal morals and his duty to his country to the white man's reputation. The author's purpose is to explain the audience (who is both English and Burmese) about the kind of life he is living in Burma, about the conditions, circumstances he is facing and to tell the British Empire what he think about their imperialism and his growing displeasure for the imperial domination of British Empire.
Orwell?s extraordinary style is never displayed well than through ?Shooting an Elephant. where he seemingly blends his style and subject into one. The story deals with a tame elephant that all of a sudden turns bad and kills a black Dravidian coolie Indian. A policeman kills this elephant through his conscience because the Indians socially pressurized him greatly. He justified himself as he had killed elephant as a revenge for coolie.
The structure of this essay can be a role model for a perfect narrative descriptive essay. The trick in creating such effective narrative descriptive essay is to provide enough concrete detail to show readers what happened. The reader should feel what it means to be there in their experience. He almost shows the graphical representation of that event. As a very minor example, that Orwell does not say, "I took my gun"; instead.
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. ar to be reasonable.
Morally, I think this story clearly states that people would do anything to avoid being embarrassed. From my understanding, I think that this story teaches us that we should be open to hear people?s opinions but we should follow our instincts. We should not allow others to make the decisions for us. The police officers just shoot the elephant because people wanted him to do so. This essay is trying to help us to see that we should look at the pros and cons of an issue rather than making a quick decision that can affect someone. I cannot condemn the author for shooting the elephant, though he knew it was wrong. Nor can I condemn him for giving in to the natives and not sticking to his guns. He does not want to appear foolish to others like all of us do.
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Bloom and Smith. 464-69.
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SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT by George Orwell:Commentary
Political, social & ethical issues raised in Orwell's essay "Shooting an Elephant" create a controversial storyline in which the events metaphorically symbolize the colonial imperialism of the time. Set in Burma, 1936, the context is based around the anti-European attitudes existent post the Anglo-Burmese Wars.
Orwell's positions, as police officer for the despotic British governments, required him to hold authority over the Burmese, consequently attracting hatred for his role. He expresses mixed emotions over his position and the disdainful attitudes directed towards him from the people around. "All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beast who tried to make my job impossible."
Racial issues are also addressed, with obvious distinctions made between the Indians/Burmese ("Coolies" "yellow faces") & the Europeans ("white men.") Orwell then presents a horrific description of the Indian corpses, killed by an elephant on a rampage through the village, of which the main events are centralized.
His depiction of the corpse is extremely chilling, detailing its physical position & a facial expression, which reveals the "unendurable agony" it had suffered just moments ago.
This occurrence sets the legal pre-text for Orwell to kill the offending elephant; however this was not his original intention, despite his prompt request of an elephant rifle. A crowd of Burmans emerge and rapidly increase in number following a rumor that Orwell was preparing to shoot the elephant. This news excited the previously impassive crowd, creating immense pressure on Orwell, whose decision would determine the fate of the elephant. He describes the sense of self-worth he felt holding the rifle "Ã¢ÂÂ¦ with the magical rifleÃ¢ÂÂ¦ I was momentarily worth watching."
His feelings of a foolish appearance mitigated upon.Citation styles:
SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT, George Orwell: Commentary. (2008, April 08). In WriteWork.com. Retrieved 18:44, February 24, 2017, from http://www.writework.com/essay/shooting-elephant-george-orwell-commentary
WriteWork contributors. "SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT, George Orwell: Commentary" WriteWork.com. WriteWork.com, 08 April, 2008. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
WriteWork contributors, "SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT, George Orwell: Commentary," WriteWork.com, http://www.writework.com/essay/shooting-elephant-george-orwell-commentary (accessed February 24, 2017)More European Literature essays:
Shooting an Elephant," Animal Farm, and 1984. Orwell consistently analyzes the society in which he was inexorably involved, questioning its standards and the path it was taking into the future. Orwell.
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Reply Tue 11 Oct, 2005 08:48 pm
Hello,everyone. I am an English language learner.Now I have problems on reading Goerge Orwell's essay "Shooting an Elephant". What is the writing style and theme os this essay?what figure of speech can be found in the following passage? What does the following sentence mean "
"--one never does when a shot goes home"? I 'd be grateful to anyone who can help me.
I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant--it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery--and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.
But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. 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, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd--seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For 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 has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. 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, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.
But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.
It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller. But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind. For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have been if I had been alone. A white man mustn't be frightened in front of "natives"; and so, in general, he isn't frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.
There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.
When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick-- one never does when a shot goes home --but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frighfful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time--it might have been five seconds, I dare say--he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.
I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open--I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had got to put an end to that dreadful noise. 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. I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.
In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour to die. Burmans were bringing dahs and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.
Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.
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