Evaluation Of Shooting An Elephant Essay, Research Paper
The story that my evaluation will be based on is Shooting an Elephant written in 1936. The author George Orwell was born in 1903 in India to a British officer raised in England. He attended Eton College, which introduced him to England?s middle and upper classes. He was denied a scholarship, which led him to become a police officer for the Indian Imperial in 1922. He served in Burma until resigning in 1927 due to the lack of respect for the justice of British Imperialism in Burma and India. He was now determined to become a writer, so at the brink of poverty he began to pay close attention to social outcasts and laborers. This led him to write Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) during the Spanish Civil War. He embodied his hate for totalitarian system in his book Animal Farm (1945). George Orwell fell to the disease of tuberculosis at forty-seven, but not before he released many works. He wrote six novels, three documentary works, over seven hundred reviews and newspaper articles, and a volume of essays (1149).
This particular story was very interesting and found it to hold a lot of truth. Shooting an Elephant is about an English man that was a police officer in Burman, who was hated for his race and felt it almost impossible to do his job. He had to deal with a lot of hatred and disrespect, but yet he was expected to do what the town?s people asked of him when they asked. When the elephant got loose the first person the sub-inspector at the opposite end of the town called was the main character, who was to be nameless throughout the entire story. He wanted him to go do something about the loose elephant because the mahout (the keeper and driver of an elephant) was away and no one else could handle a situation such as this. The main character grabbed his 44 rifle and set out to find the elephant. The purpose of the gun was not to kill the elephant but to just scare it with the noise. Little did the officer know the act of grabbing the gun to just scare the elephant would lead to its demise. On the way to find the elephant the officer learned it had destroyed a garden, a bamboo hut, devoured some stock and had trampled a cow. As the officer went further on he found that the elephant had killed a townsman just minutes before. Now thinking that the elephant could be dangerous he asked for a larger and more powerful rifle. He only wanted the bigger gun in case he was threatened in any way, not to cause unnecessary harm to the elephant. After asking for the gun he then realized that the crowd became anxious and wanted to see what was going to happen to the elephant. As he walked on to locate the elephant the realization that the whole town was watching and waiting for him to make his move was very apparent. The officer came across the elephant eating in a clearing and felt at ease that the animal was finished with his path of destruction. He glanced around him and realized that he would be forced to kill the animal. The town?s people disliked him greatly, but with a weapon and the ability to kill the wild beast the quickly changed their opinion about the officer. Although the elephant was harmless at this point, the officer fell into the trap of peer pressure and felt obligated to terminate the animal?s life. He walked as close to the elephant as he could without startling it and pulled the trigger. George Orwell then goes on to describe in great detail the horrible death that the elephant experienced.
I liked the message of this story, but I did not care for the way that the author chose to present it. The message was very clear in that there was a common problem between people in general and certain races in the mid-thirties. The message was that even though peers may expect something of them it is not always the right thing to do. This is displayed in the paragraph at the top of page 683 and continues until the middle of the page. The main character mentions right before he shoots the elephant the first time that ” he was a puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind” (683). He also describes why he is expected to shoot the elephant by saying ” a sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things” (683). Throughout this paragraph he also mentions why he feels that he must shoot the elephant by saying, ” 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 to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it” (683). The officer did not want to commit such a heinous act to a magnificent animal that was no longer causing harm. He also felt bad for the mahout, but the look on the faces and eyes were stronger than the feeling of guilt inside of him. Many people go through this every day, but not to the magnitude that was presented in this particular story. They find themselves in situations that they do not want to be in, yet they feel obligated to do what the crowd wants.
I didn?t like the way the story was presented for the fact that the death of the elephant was described in such graphic detail. For example when Orwell states, “His mouth was wide open- I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat” (684). He also goes into greater detail by saying ” thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die? (684). The vivid description continues with the explanation of the guilt the officer felt and how long it took the massive mammal to die. I feel that the author would have been able to make his point just as effective without describing the death in the way he chose to. At the end of the story it is described how the officer feels about being responsible for the elephants death. It is made clear that he knows what he did was wrong and that he will have to live with this decision for the rest of his life. It is also clear that he gave into the pressure of the towns people when he states in the last line that ” I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool” (685). This made me feel that he had no real remorse for the killing and that his reputation was winning out over his very own conscious.
This story did fit into this particular section very well because of the portrayal of the cultural and identity aspects of life. The officer is forced to deal with and question his identity by the feelings he has when finds and kills the elephant. The culture is represented by the “coolie, yellow faces, and Buddhist” (680-685). It also fits very well with the author?s feelings on imperialism, because the main character states that he feels that it is an evil thing (680).
In all consideration I understood why the author had to describe the slaughter of the elephant in such detail. It added to the effectiveness of the story by painting a very clear picture that the actions of the officer were wrong. His point would not have been taken so seriously if he just stated that the elephant died after many shots or in any other basic way. Overall I did enjoy the message very much and felt that it fit into the section very well, but I did not care for the way the author displayed the message.
Abcarian, Richard and Marvin Klotz. Literature: Reading and Writing the Human
Experience. Boston: Betford/St. Martin?s, 2000
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Boston: Betford/St. Martin?s, 1936 (2000): 680-