Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish. The friction of the great beast's foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend's house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.
The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant.
They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides they wanted the meat.
It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting the elephant--I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary--and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels.
At the bottom, when you got away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass.
The elephant was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the crowd's approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth. I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.
It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant--it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery--and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught 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. But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot.
They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. 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. 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. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him.
He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing--no, that was impossible.
The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at. But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him.
At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered.
Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly.
I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving.
They all said the same thing: It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. As an officer of the British government, he feels that he has no choice but to shoot the elephant since the crowd anticipates this violence from him. 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 With his rifle in his hand and a native crowd behind him who are all unarmed, Orwell, nevertheless, feels that he is manipulated by the existence of the empire and his position in it. I perceived at this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. Orwell shoots the elephant, not because it is dangerous. He shoots the magnificent creature because he must "impress" the natives, and it is what they expect of him.
In this act, he loses his freedom because he really does not want to shoot the elephant, but he does so "solely to avoid looking the fool. The main point, the theme, of "Shooting an Elephant" is to expose the conflict between the law and one's moral conscience as this pertains to British imperialism specifically, but by extension any imperialism.
So no one except the thoroughly-corrupt politicos actually wants independence. Britain's cold and grey and poor, and we are sunny and warm and not too badly off. We can come to the mother country and work, you can't come here without a work permit. As well-written as everything else by Orwell.
View all 35 comments. This was my introduction to George Orwell's non-fiction. Supposedly during his lifetime, Orwell was known foremost as an essayist; this was quite surprising to me as it was only a couple of years ago that I'd ever even heard mention of Orwell writing non-fiction. This collection of essays really impressed me.
Firstly, the subject matter was very varied, discussing Orwell's observations during his time in Burma, his stay in a French hospital very horrific , and also his views on books, literary f This was my introduction to George Orwell's non-fiction. Firstly, the subject matter was very varied, discussing Orwell's observations during his time in Burma, his stay in a French hospital very horrific , and also his views on books, literary figures and so on.
I think his observations about society are still very much valid, and I thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts, his dry wit. View all 23 comments. Apr 05, Stephen P rated it it was amazing. Surely, a vivid account of the oppression and futility of British colonialism in the East, or anywhere colonialism sets up its tent.
Further it shows how the oppressor also becomes the oppressed by having to wear a mask to fit the role of oppressor, then the mask becomes their face. It is also a fine study, I believe, of our interior lives and its workings. A ringing metaphor for the roles we find ourselves playing to subscribe to the mores and culture of our land. How who and what we are can be Surely, a vivid account of the oppression and futility of British colonialism in the East, or anywhere colonialism sets up its tent.
How who and what we are can be crushed by these pressures. A young British police officer, conflicted about his feelings regarding British imperialism, is called on to shoot a wild elephant who reportedly is terrorizing the Burma town. Having an elephant hunting rifle in hand he takes off to where the elephant is located in a field. The townspeople, of course without access to weapons follow in pursuit of a thrill. At the field the elephant stands appearing as a harmless creature.
Will he shoot the elephant to secure a tighter fit as a British Colonizer, or refuse to shoot and have to walk past the large crowd of Burmese men, women, and children? Will he have the guts to locate who he is apart from the role impressed upon him and act according? At the end of watching the short movie of, Shooting the Elephant, two days before reading this great work, my wife and I remained silent trying to situate ourselves again before speaking.
Compressed, it was an experience that if shared threaded a bonding. The movie was different than the book in some aspects. The reflex reaction to compare, dictated a strained restriction that permeated the act of reading, thus reconstructing the theme of the book. Can we step in any direction without being constricted by the expectations of our culture, the expectations imposed by ourselves, even our past experiences?
Is it a worthy life pursuit to slice as many of the binds as possible? That is in part what being a reader, writer, an artist, is about? Nov 22, Kim rated it really liked it Shelves: Why has it taken me so long to discover George Orwell's non-fiction? Ever since reading when I was a teenager I've known Orwell was an excellent writer, but I didn't know just how extensive a range he had. Fiction, journalism, literary criticism, political and social commentary, memoir; there appears to be nothing Orwell couldn't turn his hand to.
This volume includes a range of Orwell's essays from the s and s, with subjects including Orwell's time as a policeman in Burma, the year Why has it taken me so long to discover George Orwell's non-fiction? This volume includes a range of Orwell's essays from the s and s, with subjects including Orwell's time as a policeman in Burma, the years he spent in the prep school he loathed, the writing of Charles Dickens, Gullivers Travels , the French hospital system, poverty in England, the cost of books and political language.
While I found some of the essays of more inherent interest than others, all of them are engaging, written in wonderfully clear prose and imbued with Orwell's honesty, his passion for social justice and his capacity for at times painful self-reflection.
This is great stuff. How glad I am that Orwell was so prolific and that there's a lot more of his writing for me still to discover. View all 5 comments. Feb 02, Josh rated it it was amazing. A teacher my second term of college said I should drop out because of how much I liked Shooting an Elephant. In retrospect, I realize exactly how much of a commentary on her that is.
Moral of the story, don't go to community college. Jun 06, Duane rated it really liked it Shelves: Published first in , it is not known if this short story by Orwell is fiction or non-fiction. This is a snapshot of British Imperialism on the individuals level, and it's perception from both sides politically of the human experience. A local British official in Colonial Burma is ask to deal with a working elephant run amok in the village.
The official, possibly Orwell himself, is torn between shooting the elephant and waiting for his handler to return. He really doesn't want to shoot the Published first in , it is not known if this short story by Orwell is fiction or non-fiction. He really doesn't want to shoot the elephant, but he feels pressured by the presence of two thousand villagers looking on to act like they expect the imperialist to act.
This story is available for free on the Literature Network. Jul 11, Peter Tillman added it Shelves: I started reading the title essay, which is free online, and almost immediately stalled at the hostility of the locals.
Instead, you may prefer the estimable Petra's remarks: We can come to the mother count I started reading the title essay, which is free online, and almost immediately stalled at the hostility of the locals. So I might try old George's reluctant elephant-execution again. But we'll always have Petra! View all 3 comments. Feb 25, Shalini Sinha rated it it was amazing Shelves: I read this story for the first time in my lecture "Masculinities in Literature and Popular Culture", that is, in the context of masculinity of a white, imperialist British officer in contrast to the colonized Indians and Burmese.
It was my second book by Orwell - the first being Animal Farm, followed by and the legendary writer and thinker had already become a fav. This book offers an insight into the minds of some British officers, through "Shooting an Elephant" was an eye-opener for me. This book offers an insight into the minds of some British officers, through the lens of main protagonist Orwell, a British officer in Burma during colonialism, who were full of disdain towards their own leaders and nation which establishes what Frankl wrote in his book "Man's Search for Meaning" - "Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.
And then there is Orwell. Through "Shooting an Elephant", he shows his dejection of the treatment of some lives "Coolie", "only an Indian", and "elephant" as inessential and his feelings of pique with the same. Sep 19, Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly rated it really liked it. He does not want to kill the elephant but he is a British police officer in his country's colony Burma and two thousand he must be exaggerating yellow-faced Burmese are watching, expecting him to kill the beast who had gone on a rampage, killing a cow, destroying crops and houses and causing the death of a native.
Yet it is now calm, peacefully eating grass, and its owner may soon arrive and bring him home. The rulers, however, have masks to wear and a reputation to protect. They cannot afford He does not want to kill the elephant but he is a British police officer in his country's colony Burma and two thousand he must be exaggerating yellow-faced Burmese are watching, expecting him to kill the beast who had gone on a rampage, killing a cow, destroying crops and houses and causing the death of a native.
They cannot afford to become objects of ridicule of those whom they rule. The latter, on the other hand, have expectations about their rulers.
So kill the elephant he must. It was at this point, with the elephant rifle in his hands, that Orwell had this epiphany: 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.
We see this in his other story entitled "A Hanging" which I shall review after this. As a result, the sheer necessity to extricate himself from the depiction of something he his witnessing first-hand is quite evident along his works. What differentiates him from his other novelist-journalists of his epoch such as Steinbeck or Hemmingway is the ability to drop a considerable amount of humanity into his accounts. In it, he not only expresses his contempt for the man who is about to die, but he also acknowledges the wrongness of the situation.
Once again, he shows affection towards the unfortunate people who died alone and helpless in the corridors of the establishment. Other than his empathy, Orwell holds a pragmatic view regarding writing, language and communication. In these two essays, he argues about the pretentiousness of certain writers, who use ideas to convey words, and not the other way around.
One can say that these points of view might have emerged during his years working as a journalist, yet the arguments he utilizes hold enough poignancy to persuade the reader. He reveals he writes only when he has something to tell the audience, and not exclusively as means of self-recreation. But when it comes to portraying George, this needs to be done. This book should be seen as essential. That is, if you the reader wants to explore the mind of a man who lived through most of the pivotal points in the first half of the XX century, although not always fully belonging.
Jun 18, Megha rated it liked it Shelves: Mar 06, Pink rated it really liked it. This is a brilliant collection of essays. Orwell is still relevant today and always worth reading. Jan 09, Matthew rated it really liked it Shelves: Lovely -- I can't believe I let this sit on my shelf for 3 years before getting round to it.
I have not read Orwell before, save for Animal Farm as a teenager, and didn't realise what a sharp essayist he is; I certainly intend to read more.
Certainly I'm no Orwell expert, but here are a few things I do notice from this collection: How much he is a proletariat voice, despite his middle class family background and relatively elite education admittedly on scholarship -- witness his criticism of Lovely -- I can't believe I let this sit on my shelf for 3 years before getting round to it. How much he is a proletariat voice, despite his middle class family background and relatively elite education admittedly on scholarship -- witness his criticism of Dickens' lack of realistic empathy for the real working classes, his sensitiveness to the biases of the weekly magazines that then passed for cheap mass entertainment, his embedded journalism in the homeless shelter, the very title of "How The Poor Die", etc.
His sympathies are entirely with the working class. How against totalitarianism he was -- and yet how much this dates him for which I remove a star ; his specific political attacks seem hardly relevant now.
Interestingly, this was directed at his own Britain, where newspaper reporting was apparently politicized as a result of the wars; how he saw the politicization of knowledge inevitably means a malleable history, a malleable truth, a past that belongs to the elite. What a sharp literary critic he was -- his essays on Charles Dickens and, separately, Swift's Gullivers Travels are brilliant.
I like how he argues Dickens is a moralist -- his novels never critique the system, rather, the morality and behavior of people in the system -- and how he extends this to argue that there are always two views: I confess myself very much of the latter view. The same qualities that make him a good literary critic, I think, make him an excellent biographical essayist -- he is reflective and sufficiently sensitive to his own internal reactions, that some of his best stuff are his reminiscences -- the titular essay, Shooting An Elephant, for example, is a rather tragic, honest self-accounting, while Such, Such Were The Joys, is a surprisingly vehement recounting of his days in boarding school.
cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of .
George Orwell, best known for his novels, was also an accomplished essayist. Among his most powerful essays is the autobiographical essay "Shooting an Elephant," which Orwell based on his experience as a police officer in colonial Burma.
"Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell is a narrative essay about Orwell's time as a police officer for the British Raj in colonial Burma. The essay delves into an inner conflict that Orwell experiences in his role of representing the British Empire and upholding the law. - George Orwells Shooting an Elephant In George Orwell's essay "Shooting An Elephant," he writes about racial prejudice. Orwell is a British officer in Burma. The author is, "for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British"(). Orwell feels caught in the middle of this cultural struggle.
In the essay “Shooting an Elephant” George Orwell argues that imperialism ruins and hurts not just a countries’ economic, cultural and social structure, but has other far reaching consequences; oppression undermines the psychological, emotional and behavioral development of mankind. An important point of George Orwell's "On Shooting an Elephant" is that colonial rule is ultimately evil. In Orwell's opinion piece, it becomes apparent that he recognizes what he calls "the futility of the white man's dominion in the East" and the problematic nature of imperialism.