The Finale Of Evil In Orwell's Shooting An Elephant

1349 words - 6 pages

In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell faces a dilemma: whether or not to kill the elephant. With his final decision, the elephant finally lays dead in front of thousands of people. He explains that he was forced to shoot it because the Burmese people were expecting him to do that. In addition, he has to do it “to avoid looking like a fool” (14) in front of the crowd. At first glance, one would think that it makes sense for him to kill the elephant to save his face, but that was not the case. He effectively uses this incident to demonstrate the “real nature of imperialism” (3), where the elephant represents the British Empire.
Orwell is ambivalent about the Burmese people. At the beginning of ...view middle of the document...

They want to kill it not because it destroyed the bazaar, but rather, to enjoy the fun and to get the elephant meat. The crowd’s expectation leaves Orwell no choice but to shoot the elephant. He points out that he shot it to “impress the ‘natives’” (7). If he had not done it, the crowd would have laughed at him, and it would have hurt his pride as a white man living in the East.
The elephant, in this case, represents imperialism. Orwell, being in the middle of imperialism and the Burmese people, does not want to destroy imperialism in the first place even though he did not like the way it treated the innocent Burmese people. However, seeing the elephant destroying Burmese’s homes and lives, he finally realizes what imperialism had done to the people of Burma. The Indian man who died represents the fact that Burmese people were defenseless against the British; they were poor and had neither the strength nor “the gut to raise a riot” (1) against imperialism regardless of how much they hated it. Even though he does not destroy imperialism like the way he did to the elephant, he believed that it would be destroyed one day for the evil things that it has done. As illustrated by Orwell, the people of Burma, in killing the elephant, paint the picture for how they wanted imperialism to be killed. His reason for killing the elephant to look good in front of the crowd is simply an excuse for wanting to overturn imperialism.
Orwell halts for a while before shooting the elephant. He feels like killing an elephant is a huge thing. It is like destroying some “costly piece of machinery” (6). It takes a lot of labor and capital to raise such a huge animal like this. Therefore, it would be a waste of time and effort if he were to shoot it. If he had the choice, he would not have shot it. He explained that shooting the elephant was unavoidable in this case. From far away, it looked like a harmless creature grazing on the grass peacefully. He did not want to shoot it. In fact, he just wanted to watch the elephant to make sure that it had calmed down, and then, walked away. However, it was when he actually got close to the animal that he realized how much this beast had done to the people and how much they wanted to kill it.
Again, the elephant is used to represent the British Empire. It was huge and had been standing strong for thousands of years in terms of power and wealth. Killing the elephant was comparable to destroying the British Empire, which would be a pity since it took the British a long time and lots of money to build up such an enormous empire like that. If it is possible, one would not have destroyed it. However, the “evil” things it had done to...

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