Shooting an elephant
”Shooting an elephant” is an essay written by George Orwell and published in 1936. The text is told
by a first person narrator, who tells us about being a policeman in Burma and about his doubt,
whether to kill an animal or not.
The man who tells us the story is an unhappy young policeman who lives in mental isolation. He
hates British imperialism, he hates Burmese natives, and he hates his job. He feels like a target for
the Burmese people. The natives are treating him very badly; they are making fun of the white man.
They laugh at the protagonist and sneer at him when he passes them. “In the end the sneering yellow
faces of young men that met me everywhere, ...view middle of the document...
He knows and he can see that every day,
that imperialism is about having power, oppressing people and abusing them. He sees the British
supremacy as a tyranny and he knows that not only the Burmese people are the target of the
imperialism, but he is also a part of it. When you live in a poor country and people from far away
arrives and thinks that they have the right to show you how you need to live, and how your society
needs to be like, it causes hate and disrespect. The protagonist knows it, and he can in a way
understand the Burmese peoples laughing, sneering and bullying. He can understand their anger and
that they want to take revenge and fight back the oppressors when they have the possibility. The
1Shooting an Elephant
story-teller is stuck between two evils, he hates the natives, he hates his job and he hates the Empire
“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.” It is an evil circle because of the
poverty and oppressing the imperialism causes, and of course the mutual hate toward the two
nations doesn’t make the whole situation better. The narrator realizes that throughout his entire rule
in Burma he is actually the victim of the Burmese and the imperialism.
There are a lot of symbols in the essay; the whole incident with shooting the big elephant is a
symbol of England and their power. The fate of the elephant lies in the hands of the protagonist.
Only he can make the final decision. He is allowed and has the right to decide whether the animal is
going to live, die or escape. The elephant could therefore be a symbol of the British Empire; it is a
symbol of power, strength and control. It represents the civilized and “tame” England that can
destroy and kill. The elephant is dangerous, it can kill many people, and it is exactly like the...