Astrid De La Rosa
Shooting an Elephant
In the passage “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell the author writes about an experience he had as a police officer in Myanmar (Burma). During the time he worked as an officer in Burma where most people were anti-European which made his job as a police officer difficult. He recalls a time where he had to shoot an elephant and questions the conflict between the law and one’s moral conscience.
In George Orwell’s passage he takes a notice on the problematic nature of imperialism. While working in Burma he seemed to notice that he was hated by many people. He was a sub-divisional officer which required him to look over the village. He hated his job- he hated seeing the corrupt empire in the works he recalled the people as “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.” To maintain dominance over Burma Orwell writes that the British colonial was cruel to the Burmese and as a result there was mutual hatred between the natives and the Europeans. Which explain why George Orwell was often looked down upon.
In the story George Orwell recalls a time where he felt pressured by the natives to use violence against an elephant. The story goes that Orwell received a call regarding an elephant on the loose although he was told it was not a wild he decided to take his rifle anyway. While he searched for the elephant he began to be accompanied by the surrounding villagers. When he finally came across the elephant he thought twice before he shot it. Orwell perceives his shooting of the elephant as an act of cowardice. For he only killed this animal to avoid “looking like a fool” because of the native’s expectation of violence. As an officer of the British government he felt no choice but the need to shoot the animal since the crowd anticipated violence. “And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East.” With the rifle in his hand and the crowd behind him he felt overpowered by the position he held. Although some may argue that one should never be influenced by their surroundings. I can see why and how Orwell was pressured into shooting the elephant. Sometimes as humans we forget that we can easily be subconsciously influenced by our everyday surroundings.
In George Orwell’s “shooting an elephant” Orwell talks about his experience as a police officer in a foreign country and how it unconsciously influenced his decision making. He also recalls a time where he shot an elephant and questions the conflict between the law and one’s moral conscience. Overall, I thought this passage was a great read and it made me look back on my life when I let my surroundings influence my decision making.