British Imperialism Exposed in Shooting an Elephant, by George Orwell

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George Orwell was, without a doubt, one of the most influential authors of his time. His strong opposition to totalitarianism and imperialism made him one of the most recognizable names in literature during the 1900’s. Orwell spent 5 years as an imperial policeman in Burma, witnessing firsthand the effects of imperialism on the people of Burma (BBC). The insight he gained during those years made clear to him the injustices of colonization and fueled his opposition to totalitarianism. After his time serving in Burma, he resigned from the imperial police forces to focus on his writing (Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature). Soon after, he wrote the novel Burmese Days, a story about the final days of imperialism in Burma and the essay Shooting an Elephant, which also touches on the issue of imperialism. An analysis of this piece through the historical and post-colonial lenses suggests that the narrative is really speaking about the resounding adverse effects of imperialization, both on the colonizer and the colonized, specifically the British Empire and the subcontinent of India.

The straightforward approach Orwell uses in his prose is unlike any other, and he gets his point across with a firm hand. This lucid prose, with its unparalleled directness has left some of his works at the forefront of heated debates over many topics, including imperialism and its negative impact. In Shooting an Elephant, he addresses these effects on both parties, the imperialist British as well as the colonized Burmese. In the case of the British, the process of imperialization triggered a dehumanization fueled by the false sense of omnipotence. The people were taught to believe that the new, “better” rulers, the white ...

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