Gary Hammontree

496 Words2 Pages
Orwell’s Elephant

On Shooting an Elephant

Officer Blair received a report of a run away elephant within his

jurisdiction. Leaving in response to the emergency, he is followed.

The crowd following him swells to the thousands, all intent on

witnessing the killing of the elephant and profiting from the

carcass. As they grew nearer to the beast, the crowd grew more

agitated. They were expecting him to shoot the elephant. Oddly, the

nearer Blair/ Orwell came to the elephant the less he wanted to shoot

the beast. The elephant had not intentionally caused harm; he was

just being an elephant.

The villagers had, by now whipped themselves into some kind of

vigilante frenzy, hell-bent for the elephant’s execution. Orwell felt

as though he had no choice but to kill the giant. If not, all respect

for the territorial police and authority would be lost. The sahib, as

he expresses it must maintain the allusion of authority and respect.

He had to shoot the elephant now. To fail at this would seal his fate

as any type of authority figure.

Orwell eventually shoots the elephant and watches as the elephant

reacts. Not mortally wounded, Orwell shoots repeatedly. Each time he

fires at the elephant there is a different and violent reaction by the

elephant; a reluctance to die. Orwell empathizes with the elephant’s

suffering. There is no reason for this animal to suffer like this

except ego and crowd rule.

Orwell could just as easily not killed the elephant. His position,

one of authority, shielded him to a degree; He could have just made a

proclamation in favor of sparing the animal, showing an imperial

largess, and mercy in sparing the elephant. These animals were after

all; extremely valuable as work animals being able to move huge loads

and pull whole trees out of the ground.

Orwell continues to justify his action. He sought validation through

the members of the village. Polling the older men then the younger

ones there is a difference of opinion. The older men approve of the

killing, the younger ones see the value of the beast and the

possibility of some other solution. Eventually Orwell succeeded in

justifying his action to himself. His conscience is clear, although

he expresses no remorse for the coolie that was killed by the


Orwell had alternatives available. He was the authority in this
Open Document