Shooting An Elephant Essay, Research Paper
Shooting an Elephant, by George Orwell is a story how a young Orwell, while stationed in Colonial Burma, became disillusioned with Imperialism. On one occasion he was faced with the dilemma of having to destroy a wild elephant that had gotten loose in the town he was stationed in. Throughout the story the reader will be able to see two alternating voices of Orwell. The first voice is a justification of his actions, while the other voice revels an honest excuse as to why he shot the elephant. Orwell s powerful phrases and words will give the reader a better understanding of why he had to destroy this magnificent animal.In the town of Moulmein, in Colonel Burma, where Orwell was stationed he claimed that he was hated by a large number of people (104). This reason was because Orwell was a European and the Burmese didn t take kindly to Europeans since they were treating the Burmese terribly. Orwell knew that the imperialism of the Europeans was a horrible thing and according to him he was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British (104). Even though he already knew that the British and imperialism was wrong a tiny incident happened one day that he explains gave me a better glimpse that I had before of the real nature of imperialism (105).Early one morning Orwell received a call from the police station at the other end of town. It was reported that an elephant has escaped and was terrorizing a bazaar, and that Orwell should come and try and do something. The elephant was not a wild elephant but an elephant that was going though its mating process. The elephant was chained up but had broken loose. The only person who can control the elephant had went searching for the animal but had gone the wrong was and now was twelve hours away. It was reported that the animal had destroyed a bamboo hut, killed a cow, and destroyed a municipal rubbish van. Later it was reported that the elephant had killed a lower class man. As soon as Orwell saw the body he sent for an elephant rifle.As soon as the rifle arrived a crowd began to form behind Orwell. The people that had once hated him have now become his supporters. When he arrived at the elephant Orwell said I ought not to shoot him (107). He was almost certain that his mating temptations were passing and that the animal would not do anymore harm, but in case the elephant did he would be there ready. He looked back at the immense crowd that followed him to the elephant, and he thought to himself they did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching (107). He felt the crowd pressuring him to kill the elephant and that s when he decided he had to what was expected of him.
He knew in his mind that he didn t want to kill the animal he just doesn t want to look foolish. He thought about the animal s owner and how he would react. He also thought it always seems worse to kill a large animal (108). He knew what he ought to do. He ought to walk up to the elephant to test his behavior. Then he thought that the idea is a bad one because of the soft ground from the rain. He would not be able to move fast enough if the animal were to charge at him. At this point he wasn t very fearful of himself but of the faces that watch him. He said, a white man mustn t be freighted in front of natives (108). The thought he was having at this moment was of how the Burmese would react if he were to be trampled on. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh (108). In Orwell s mind that would never do (108). The only alternative was to kill the elephant. As the crowd was around him he felt there presence force him to pull the trigger and when he did he described the crowds reaction as a roar of devilish glee (108). Although the first shoot did not kill the elephant he kept filling the animal with bullets until it died. He heard later that it took the elephant a half an hour to die. Even as the elephant lie there dying the Burmese people started to pick the elephant apart for meat. After the incident there were many discussions about the shooting of the elephant. When the owner returned he was quite mad, but he was an Indian so there was nothing he could do about it. Some of the older men said it was the right thing to do, and the younger men said, it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more (109). In the end Orwell was glad the coolie was killed because it put me legally in the right and it gave me sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant (109). Throughout the essay Orwell discuss his two alternating voices that are going on inside of his head. One the moral side he knew that killing the elephant was an unjust thing to do. He knew that the elephant had done what it had done not because it wasn t tame, but because it was reacting to its mating habits. The other voice revealed that he knew shooting the elephant is immoral but looking like a coward is something far worse. His emotions of his hatred of Imperialism come shining through in his second voice.