Geore Orwell Essay, Research Paper
The True meaning behind the Killing of the Elephant
An elephant has been shot and killed. Wt a mere act of violence or does it go beyond that? In this situation, the killing of the elephant goes far behind self-defense and security. It s taken to a personal level, which leads to difficult complications. George Orwell is overwhelmed with what is expected from him, than what he knows is morally correct. Even though he knew emotionally that it was wrong to shoot and kill the elephant; it was more important to him how others perceived him over what he though about himself.
George had very sour feelings towards the Burman s. Theoretically he was both, for and against the Burman s. He was for them because they were oppressed, and against them due to emotional experiences. Theoretically and secretly, of course I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear (Orwell 725). He felt as if he had to portray a certain character, in order for him to feel superior to them. It was a way for him to feel accepted and to feel comfortable with his surroundings. What Orwell wasn t aware of was the fact that he was portraying someone he really wasn t. By doing that he was lying to himself. Orwell was there representing the Britih; the last thing he would want to do is make himself look like a fool, in front of the Burmans. It would merely give them more reasons to laugh and taunt the British officers
Going to another country, and having the responsibility of an officer, wasn t an easy task for Orwell. It was more like going thorough a maze with traps. Not knowing if the people want you there, and not being familiar with your surroundings. Orwell was there for a reason; he was there for the people. But it made his job more difficult knowing he disliked the people he was protecting and the empire he served. 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 725). In order for him to feel accepted, he felt he had to impress the Burmans. Orwell used the elephant s life to prove that he was, and could be, superior to them. And that he had the power to take control. He started taking his job more personal, which reflected upon his responses to the Burmans and their actions.
The elephant was a pop quiz that was testing Orwell s inner strength; how much he believed in himself over what others believed he had the ability to do. And Orwell succeeded in failing. The elephant was simply going through a mini attack, which would not last long. Orwell knew right when he saw the elephant that he didn t have to shoot him. The animal was sitting peacefully recovering from his attack. The only job Orwell had, was to wait for the mahout to get the elephant and to make sure it did no harm to the people. But then he remembered that thousands of Burmans were watching him, and waiting for him to shoot and kill the elephant. And yet again, Orwell had to represent himself as someone he wasn t, in order for the Burman s to accept him.
In realty Orwell was just another British officer who was obligated to do his job. The Burman s had no concern for Orwell s thoughts. They only wanted him to protect them.
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 (Orwell 728).
Even by being informed with this obvious knowledge, Orwell still had to live up to their expectations. Doing what was expected of him to do from the natives was more important to him than doing what he morally knew was right.
Orwell knew that he was lying to himself. But as long as the Burman s didn t know this, nothing else mattered. What did matter to him, was being laughed at and being titled as a fool. It didn t worry him, that he would have to live the rest of his life knowing he killed a harmless animal, simply because of what others would think of him.
1. Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. The Blair Reader,EB.
Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen Mandell. NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. 724-730.