“Shooting an Elephant (1936)” by george orwell

The article, Shooting an Elephant, deals with George Orwell, who is a Moulmein police officer, a British Colony town in Burma (Orwell, 2014). The people of Burma have been acutely loathed by George because he is an English military occupier much like the rest of the guys. It wasn’t their way to show their indignation by launching revolts against the Europeans, but they preferred to annoy the Europeans at any chance they had. Just to demonstrate the level of their indignation at the Europeans, the Burmans, spat slurs at Orwell as he marched down the streets of Burma. The young man even tormented Orwell. On the contrary, Orwell id detested by the Burmese yet he stands for the same principals just as theirs. He secretly and theoretically opposes the British Empire under which he served. In his line of duty, he handles wretched prisoners and this gives him access to the ruthless leadership of European colonialists. He feels guilty for being part of the ruthless colonial government, which is in fact better and would later on be replaced by regimes that are far much more ruthless than the current. Other than having deep hate for the European colonial government, Orwell has developed a contrasting deeper detest for the rude Burmese who keep tormenting him every day.

On a day, Orwell is informed of an elephant causing mayhem. The elephant has destroyed both private and public property and killed livestock in the due process. The elephant’s handler had been badly disadvantaged as he had pursued it in the wrong direction and was now twelve hours away. The locals explain to Orwell that the elephant wasn’t wild but had been “Must.” This condition was used to refer to elephants that had been tamed but broke the chains in the due process. After breaking the restraints, the elephant goes ultimately berserk. On getting to the point where the elephant was, the kind of damage he saw literally tore his heart to pieces; a village lay in mad having been ripped from limb to limb by the elephant, the pain caused his death. Orwell made an order to a junior for a gun that could kill the elephant, and as a way of showing where he stood pertaining to the Colonial Government, he shot it dead. In the real sense, Orwell killed the elephant just to avoid looking like a fool in the midst of the crowd.


Owing to the fact that Orwell cannot outsmart the Burmese from hurling abuses and jibes at him, he demonstrates being powerless despite holding military superiority and symbolic authority. Literally, he makes the establishment that the control of dynamics and power are far from the black and white. The colonial system has pitted Orwell’s principles at loggerheads. The pitying gives him contradictory thoughts pertaining to his own principles; whether or not to stick by them. He feels that he is suffering greatly at the hands of the Burmese and has a great urge to avenge. On the contrary, his staunch stand in opposing the colonial regime contradicts his role in the regime and the tyranny that comes with the regime. On the onset, Orwell is a person in power and deserves respect but on the contrary, hate is all that the people can afford to give him.

The elephants used in the narration serve as symbolism. They symbolize the colonialism that is dominant in Burma. When Orwell proved that he wasn’t stupid by killing the elephant, the young saw it as utter display of stupidity; killing an elephant just because it had killed a cooli. According to the view that they hold, the person’s life wasn’t that important compared to that of the elephant’s. This is a perfect showcase of imperialism in Burma. The strong elephant represents the Colonial regime whereas the people trampled, crushed and killed are the Burma people. The act of the elephant breaking the chains symbolizes the colonial government going against the customs and traditions of the Burma people.

Conclusively, in the same manner that he does not understand where he really fits as far as the power of dynamics is concerned, Orwell clearly lacks a narrative that is clear-cut enough to bring out the elephants rampage. Out rightly, there is a huge convolution between power dynamics and colonialism, which makes it nay impossible to contain them in the scope of a single straightforward opinion. In line with the happenings, the Burmese seem to wield power from Orwell making him less powerful.

Work cited

Orwell, George. Essays. London: Penguin, 2014. Print.

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