Shooting an Elephant is a famous essay written by George Orwell in 1936, originally published as "A Hanging" and later re-published under the title we know today. In this essay, he reflects on his experience of shooting an elephant while serving as a police officer in Burma. Through this narrative piece of literature, Orwell explores themes of imperialism, oppression, and self-reflection.
The story begins with the narrator receiving orders to shoot an elephant that had been ravaging nearby villages for days. He was not particularly excited about it because it would mean killing something harmless, but nonetheless, he felt obliged to follow through with his duties due to social pressures. He eventually decides to go ahead with the task despite feeling conflicted: "And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all" (Orwell). His internal struggle between what society expects from him and what he wants for himself serves as one of the main focal points of this work. It illustrates how people can be forced into doing things they do not necessarily agree with due to societal pressures or expectations placed upon them by their peers or superiors.
The essay also contains vivid descriptions that help bring out emotions associated with various scenes throughout its duration, most notably when describing the death scene itself. Orwell states: "He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken...a wretched creature" (Orwell). The descriptive writing technique used here further illustrates how humans can inflict immense pain on other living beings—another major theme explored in Shooting an Elephant. The use of imagery evokes strong feelings through such actions while simultaneously allowing readers to understand why someone may feel obligated or compelled towards committing these acts even if they don't truly believe in them themselves at heart.
At its core, though, Shooting an Elephant serves primarily as a commentary against colonialism and imperialism during the 1930s British era, specifically highlighting some key issues faced by many natives oppressed under British rule, including a lack of autonomy over their own lives or destinies. Hence, it remains relevant even today, despite being first published nearly 90 years ago!