Shooting an Elephant, written by George Orwell, is a short autobiographical essay about an incident that occurred during the time of his service as a police officer in Burma. The essay is centered around an event in which Orwell was forced to shoot an elephant against his own wishes. Using this episode which resulted in the clash between his own personal beliefs and the expectations of those around him, Orwell sends a message that imperialism is a lose-lose game that hurts the oppressed, as well as the oppressor. Furthermore, he indirectly advises the readers to act according to one’s personal wishes, not those of others.
The essay starts with the description that the narrator, Orwell, is a sub-division police officer in Burma. Orwell is hated by the natives in midst of the anti-European sentiment, and he faces constant jeering and insults from the Burmese people. This is quite unfortunate because on the inside, he actually feels sympathetic towards them and declares that imperialism is evil. This is because during the many years of service, he has witnessed the inhumane treatment of prisoners and numerous other dirty works done by the British Empire. However Like every other Englishmen in the East, there is nothing he can do since he is stuck in the middle between the empire he hates and the natives who hate him.
One day, an incident shakes up his monotonous life. Orwell receives a desperate call from a Burmese sub-inspector at the other end of the town, requesting for an immediate aid to take care of an elephant that has gone crazy. Orwell fetches an old .44 Winchester rifle and heads toward the region where the elephant was last reported to be seen. On his way, he hears that the e...
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...e a puppet that is devoid of self-will and confidence. Even though he may seem like the one in power in Burma, he is merely become a puppet of power itself.
All in all, Orwell’s essay is a remarkable piece of writing that combines a personal anecdote with a political opinion. By using the death of the elephant as a metaphor, he conveys the message that excessive power ruins one’s better judgment and moral by making him/her a puppet that is easily manipulated by others. In life, we will face dilemmas in which our personal beliefs clash with other people’s expectations. Using this essay as a constant reminder, we must make sure that we make the decision that we will not regret by following our heart and conscience. After all, as Ralph Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
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