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Analytical Essay On Shooting An Elephant

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‘Shooting of An Elephant’ is perhaps one of the most symbolic narratives that best depicts the volatile situation that existed right after the literal fall of the British Empire, through a witness called George Orwell . Right at the aftermath of the surreal impacts of imperialism that have accrued in the third world countries those were under the severe oppression  of the colonizer, there were several instances and contradictory emotions captured in this essay by George Orwell.  Published as a collection of essays, the first hand experience of George Orwell in a colonized estate like Burma depicts one of the most important aspects of the inherent culture of colonialism and imperialism (Doyle, 2016).

 ‘Shooting of an Elephant’ composes of a historical significance that is crucial to understand the recurrent political and social framework ( Orwell, 1946).The year of 1946, considering as a topical phase of global unrest and tumult, has histrionic evidences of many events and tragedies. Therefore, in a colonized setting, the magnitude of this disorder was the sternest in nature. In the form of a very personal narrative of George Orwell, is a witness at a close proximity to the whole scenario of British Raj and their colonies (Graham, 2016).This reflective essay by George Orwell has various symbolic overtones that highlight the catastrophic situation that had befallen upon both the oppressors and oppressed. While serving his term as a police officer in Burma, George Orwell indulged in one such imperialistic act that has left a significant impression on image and moral conscience. There is a strong dilemma of moral policing and the duty of official patrolling which Orwell had faced during his term in Moulmein. The narration includes instances of severe antagonism and hate that existed between the natives and the colonizers, which aggravated often made the situation much worse to handle.  The author highlights on the recurrent expressions of “startling”, upsetting”, “perplexing”, as a primary source of this narration (Graham, 2016). A keen and precise sense of guilt and pent up frustrations is a consistent theme through all the mentioned incidents.


Strangely, so the author laments and complains about his helplessness that while dealing and ‘controlling’ an elephant gone astray within the village. The narration starkly defines the existing state of affairs in many such colonizing countries as they finally liberated from the shackles of tyranny and violent oppression. In spite of being an official agent of the imperialistic representation that he belonged to, the narrator suffered an intense inflict on his moral dilemma that kept on haunting his whole life. The “bitter hate” which he ascertains was prevalent in such a hostile situation, influenced him to convict in a gruesome act (Maiti, 2015). Recalling the strange incident that changed the imperialistic perspective of the author, he wanted to convey empathy and manifest to his guilt conscience. “The futility of the White Man’s dominion in the east” as experienced by the author has drawn several conclusions over the years and effects in a drastic way (Montogomery, 2013). The elephant whose ‘must’ was not following him had made several mess apart from killing a cow, distorting paddy fields, wrecking houses and even killing a coolie but the dangerous consequences which it had to face was not called for.  The narration portrays the overbearing guilt that George Orwell was facing as a peer human who shot his rifle thrice into the elephant’s body in order to save the day. The role which he played by shooting at the elephant was second hand tyranny that he could never justify. In spite of been vested with a power more than the present audience is, he was the most powerless being standing over there with a burden of “White-Man’s Image” (Doyle, 2016). The narrator explains the reason and terrible contradiction that summarizes the situation of shooting the huge animal.  The narrator admits the how he took undue advantage of the vulnerability of the elephant as the beast was calmly indulging in his piece of grass (Panigrahi, 2015).

The narrator accounts, “He was dying very slowly and in great agony”, as he recalls, which can also be applied for him in that critical scenario. The narrator was negotiating with the two images that he had to maintain, and he chose over his white man’s role because he was supposed to act like it.   He was the prey of the conventional “A shahib has got to act like a shahib” situation and gave way to it. Wrongful convictions and self-conscience are two of the factors that help in accelerating the gravity of the victim, which is the elephant in this case (Montogomery, 2013). It harmed and wounded his integrity as a human being bereft of his responsibility as the White Man. The British Empire was the supreme authority during the period when George Orwell accounted this incident. The world was aware and conscious of the despotism that went on during the colonial rule over all the concerned estates, but George Orwell gave a first-hand view of the enormous frivolity of the situation (Graham, 2016). The threat of anger and confusion on the reputation of an English constable was dangerous. Over all the necessity to act, as a hero with a rifle, in his hand is the most terrifying site where he was the responsible agent of the blunder. In addition to the peer pressure of the excited audience, he felt and acted like an oppressed puppet in the hands of the powerless and armless natives who were jeering and encouraging the White Man in the narrator to act and prove his heroism. The three fire shots that ultimately led to fall of the susceptible victim could not recover in image struggle. The controversial fact that sustains the political anarchy of “shooting” the “elephant” is very crucial in comprehending the emotions of the people (Melia, 2015). He laments with the reality of the situation in statement like, “I could feel there two thousand wills pressing me forward”. Orwell’s account helps in drawing inference about the different aspects of the great historical events and the references that portray it.



Doyle, J. M. (2016). Orwell's Elephant and the Etiology of Wrongful Convictions.

Graham, P. W. (2016). 6 Byron, Orwell, politics and the English language. Byron: The Poetry of Politics and the Politics of Poetry, 69.

Maiti, K. (2015). Designating an Animal Victim: Violent Sparagmos in Orwell's Shooting an Elephant. Labyrinth: An International Refereed Journal of Postmodern Studies, 6(1).

Melia, P. (2015). Imperial Orwell. Atlantis. Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies, 37(2), 11-25.

Montgomery, K. (2013). Shooting An Elephant: How the British Became the Leading Imperialist in Africa and the World.

Panigrahi, D. (2015). Journey through a Traveller’s Eyes. Language in India, 94.

Wessels, J. A. (2016). Cultural Polarities in Frances Hodfson Burnett's Children Books. Mousaion, 34(2), 67-82.

Yeasmin, N., Azad, M. A. K., & Ferdoush, J. (2013). “Shooting an Elephant”: A Stylistic Analysis. ASA University Review, 7(1).

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