George Orwell

One of the most accurate representations of the negative effects of imperialism to one’s society is George Orwell’s essay, Shooting an Elephant. He made use of a personal narrative to implicitly express his position and stand in regard to the present condition of Burma in his time. It is reasonable to conclude that the narrator of the essay is Orwell himself considering that he was once a sub-division officer in Moulmein, Burma.

First, let’s identify the theme of the essay and the message that it intends to convey. Obviously, it aims to express Orwell’s political stand in the society. In his time, George Orwell had always been transparent being an anti-imperialist in his works despite the fact that he was serving the British. It was probably the reason why he made use of a pseudonym aside from his original name Eric Arthur Blair.

His feelings were directly quoted in his essay several times. However, to address the impact of the tiny incident to Orwell accurately, let’s analyse the parts which support the arguments greatly. Initially, he started the essay by introducing first the condition he was in. He introduced the essay by stating, “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people. . .” (Orwell). Instead of straightforwardly narrating the story, he took the time to introduce himself and his environment so he could better express the “enlightenment” that he experienced.

“As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.” (Orwell). He also refers to himself as someone with power yet ironic because there is a sense of shame in his statement. This creates an idea that he is under a conquered country where he is not respected as an officer as far as the meaning of the word is concerned.

He also cites particular group of people who constantly annoy him such as the Buddhist priests. “There were several thousands of them [Buddhist priests] in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.” (Orwell).

It was in the succeeding parts when he finally mentioned his frustrations because he was secretly on the side of the Burmans and he despised his job a great deal. Despite the nature of his job to protect the society from crime, he still felt the guilt as he described the situation of the prisoners. However, being young and uneducated, he could not do anything.

The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos--all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt (Orwell).

Finally, Orwell started the narration of his elephant story like any other fictional author would begin theirs but it came in later after he had established the environment to the readers. This is where he mentioned how the “tiny incident” enlightened him of his perceptions towards the evil deeds of the government he was serving.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism--the real motives for which despotic governments act (Orwell).

In this part, Orwell expressed his denunciation of imperialism. The shooting of the elephant enlightened him in a way that his eyes were finally opened to the evil truth of imperialism. He was already against the British imperialist government but the incident of the elephant assured his beliefs and perception about the negative impact of such government.

Many times he reiterated how hesitant he was in shooting the elephant. “I had no intention of shooting the elephant--I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary”, “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot 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.” (Orwell). However, in the end he lost himself and shot the elephant several times for the satisfaction and approval of the Burmans.

If one would analyse the story comprehensively, Orwell was obviously a victim of imperialism. He considered the experience as a tiny incident because apparently it is but a simple case for a regular police officer to take care of. Like what he mentioned in the essay, any other police could have done what he had done. His action and decision was deemed to be legal and correct as far as the law was concerned. However, as a moral person he lost track of his own decisions and surrendered to the expectations pressed on to him by the natives.

“The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.” (Orwell). He lost his free will when he was forced to shoot the elephant because he had to meet the expectation of the two thousand natives who had followed him. He wanted to prove to his position as a police officer to the Burmans. Moreover, it was also evident that he wanted to impress the natives to gain their respect. Perhaps, it was also an implication that he desired the Burmans’ appreciation because secretly he was on their side and against his own.

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 (Orwell).

All throughout the story, he emphasized the burden brought to him by the natives. Many times he mentioned how he only shot the elephant to avoid looking like a fool and a laughingstock for the Burmans. In this story, both sides were oppressed. No matter in which side one was on—British of Burman—oppression was evident. The Burmans were oppressed by the British Imperialists as the coolie who was killed by elephant was victimized by the animal. Similarly, Orwell, as an officer for the British colony, he was oppressed by the immorality brought about by his own tyranny.

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 (Orwell).

Based on the sources cited, it is relatively evident that George Orwell had despised the person that he had become when he shot that elephant to avoid being deemed a fool. Either way, he was still believed as such by the young people who preferred the coolie dead than the elephant which seemed to be more valuable for them. Instead of fighting for what was right according to reason, he gave in to his pride and sacrificed his principles to gain the approval of the natives.

Moreover, he realized how imperialism can affect a society’s morality by providing it with the erroneous feeling of superiority over its constituents. Instead of unity, it separated the Europeans and the conquered empires by means of discrimination and mockery. Imperialists, with their totalitarian authority, have the tendency to overuse their power to show their superior capabilities and dignity over their lands. In return, the ones conquered would feel the surge of disgust towards them as their authority transforms into over usage of power.

Nonetheless, the elephant in this story represents the power which overwhelmed Orwell. He felt powerless because of the animal’s size. Imperialism, therefore, was referred to as power much bigger than its rulers. Since it gave him two options, whether to show the Burmans that he can protect them or to give in to the imperial act which was to kill an innocent creature.

In the end, George Orwell was convinced of the evil that imperialism can brought about to people—and he despised himself for yielding to it.

Works Cited

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Classic Short Stories. 24 October 2008 http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/shootelp.html

One of the most accurate representations of the negative effects of imperialism to one’s society is George Orwell’s essay, Shooting an Elephant. He made use of a personal narrative to implicitly express his position and stand in regard to the present condition of Burma in his time. It is reasonable to conclude that the narrator of the essay is Orwell himself considering that he was once a sub-division officer in Moulmein, Burma.

First, let’s identify the theme of the essay and the message that it intends to convey. Obviously, it aims to express Orwell’s political stand in the society. In his time, George Orwell had always been transparent being an anti-imperialist in his works despite the fact that he was serving the British. It was probably the reason why he made use of a pseudonym aside from his original name Eric Arthur Blair.

His feelings were directly quoted in his essay several times. However, to address the impact of the tiny incident to Orwell accurately, let’s analyse the parts which support the arguments greatly. Initially, he started the essay by introducing first the condition he was in. He introduced the essay by stating, “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people. . .” (Orwell). Instead of straightforwardly narrating the story, he took the time to introduce himself and his environment so he could better express the “enlightenment” that he experienced.

“As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.” (Orwell). He also refers to himself as someone with power yet ironic because there is a sense of shame in his statement. This creates an idea that he is under a conquered country where he is not respected as an officer as far as the meaning of the word is concerned.

He also cites particular group of people who constantly annoy him such as the Buddhist priests. “There were several thousands of them [Buddhist priests] in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.” (Orwell).

It was in the succeeding parts when he finally mentioned his frustrations because he was secretly on the side of the Burmans and he despised his job a great deal. Despite the nature of his job to protect the society from crime, he still felt the guilt as he described the situation of the prisoners. However, being young and uneducated, he could not do anything.

The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos--all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt (Orwell).

Finally, Orwell started the narration of his elephant story like any other fictional author would begin theirs but it came in later after he had established the environment to the readers. This is where he mentioned how the “tiny incident” enlightened him of his perceptions towards the evil deeds of the government he was serving.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism--the real motives for which despotic governments act (Orwell).

In this part, Orwell expressed his denunciation of imperialism. The shooting of the elephant enlightened him in a way that his eyes were finally opened to the evil truth of imperialism. He was already against the British imperialist government but the incident of the elephant assured his beliefs and perception about the negative impact of such government.

Many times he reiterated how hesitant he was in shooting the elephant. “I had no intention of shooting the elephant--I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary”, “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot 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.” (Orwell). However, in the end he lost himself and shot the elephant several times for the satisfaction and approval of the Burmans.

If one would analyse the story comprehensively, Orwell was obviously a victim of imperialism. He considered the experience as a tiny incident because apparently it is but a simple case for a regular police officer to take care of. Like what he mentioned in the essay, any other police could have done what he had done. His action and decision was deemed to be legal and correct as far as the law was concerned. However, as a moral person he lost track of his own decisions and surrendered to the expectations pressed on to him by the natives.

“The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.” (Orwell). He lost his free will when he was forced to shoot the elephant because he had to meet the expectation of the two thousand natives who had followed him. He wanted to prove to his position as a police officer to the Burmans. Moreover, it was also evident that he wanted to impress the natives to gain their respect. Perhaps, it was also an implication that he desired the Burmans’ appreciation because secretly he was on their side and against his own.

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 (Orwell).

All throughout the story, he emphasized the burden brought to him by the natives. Many times he mentioned how he only shot the elephant to avoid looking like a fool and a laughingstock for the Burmans. In this story, both sides were oppressed. No matter in which side one was on—British of Burman—oppression was evident. The Burmans were oppressed by the British Imperialists as the coolie who was killed by elephant was victimized by the animal. Similarly, Orwell, as an officer for the British colony, he was oppressed by the immorality brought about by his own tyranny.

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 (Orwell).

Based on the sources cited, it is relatively evident that George Orwell had despised the person that he had become when he shot that elephant to avoid being deemed a fool. Either way, he was still believed as such by the young people who preferred the coolie dead than the elephant which seemed to be more valuable for them. Instead of fighting for what was right according to reason, he gave in to his pride and sacrificed his principles to gain the approval of the natives.

Moreover, he realized how imperialism can affect a society’s morality by providing it with the erroneous feeling of superiority over its constituents. Instead of unity, it separated the Europeans and the conquered empires by means of discrimination and mockery. Imperialists, with their totalitarian authority, have the tendency to overuse their power to show their superior capabilities and dignity over their lands. In return, the ones conquered would feel the surge of disgust towards them as their authority transforms into over usage of power.

Nonetheless, the elephant in this story represents the power which overwhelmed Orwell. He felt powerless because of the animal’s size. Imperialism, therefore, was referred to as power much bigger than its rulers. Since it gave him two options, whether to show the Burmans that he can protect them or to give in to the imperial act which was to kill an innocent creature.

In the end, George Orwell was convinced of the evil that imperialism can brought about to people—and he despised himself for yielding to it.

Works Cited

Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. Classic Short Stories. 24 October 2008 http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/shootelp.html