Final Paper

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell’s protagonist, the police officer, behaves in ways that contradict his views on colonialism and his position in society. The police officer confesses how his divided values torment him. Between his hatred of Britain’s colonization of the East and his desire “to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts” he fails to feel secure about himself or his life in Burma. In the terminology of Critical Theory Today, the police officer suffers from a “cultural identity crisis” and, as a result, feels “unhomed.” Throughout the text, the police officer describes the Burmese’s hatred for him and their fondness of publicly humiliating him. This treatment from the Burmese agitates the police officer because he believes he supports “the Burmese and [was] all against their oppressors, the British.” His conflicted statements vent aggression towards both the British and the Burmese. Although the Burmese people will not accept the police officer, he describes how his views do not align with Eurocentric beliefs. He is burdened by his necessary duties as a police officer and by his hatred for his home country. He revealed, “Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official.” The officer makes it apparent that this internal conflict affects other Europeans in Burma. The officer seems to grasp that colonialism has impacted both those colonizing and those colonized. He recognizes the combination of British and Burmese cultures that has occurred thus far. For example, he refers to other police officers as “Anglo-Indian.” Nevertheless, he is unable to grasp the long-lasting impact that colonization has had on himself. The hardships of being a European in Burma are d... ... middle of paper ... ...ast; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes.” I pre-maturely assumed the police officer would not be troubled by his line of work or by the maltreatment of the Burmese. As the story progresses the police officer expresses his flip-flopping advocacy for the Burmese and the British. I felt a strong sense of uncertainty that was accompanied by the vagueness Orwell described. I believe that Orwell purposely delineates this vagueness. He is able to parallel it with the sense of uncertainty that the text exemplifies about colonialism. The blind spots left within the text by Orwell are comparable to the police officer that “could get nothing into perspective.” Overall, Orwell produced a conflicted text that is “clear enough at a distance” but becomes far more ambiguous upon further analysis.

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