The Elephant as a Symbol for Imperialism in "Shooting an Elephant”

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell retold an occasion where he was struggling to come to a final decision of whether to shoot the elephant or not. With his final decision, the elephant finally lay dying in front of thousands of people. He said that he was forced to shoot it because the Burmese people were expecting him to do that. In addition, he also explained that he had to do it “to avoid looking like a fool” in front of the crowd (14). At first glance, one would think that it makes sense for him to kill the elephant to save his face, but that was not the case. He effectively uses this incident to demonstrate the “real nature of imperialism” (3), whereas the elephant represents the British Empire. Orwell was ambivalent about imperialism. At the beginning of his essay, he recalls how Burmese people treated him when he was still working in Burma as a police officer. He was “hated by [a] large numbers of people” (1). Not only he was hated by Burmese, but all Europeans who were living in Burma went through the same experience. The way Burmese treated Europeans were upsetting to him, yet, he is secretly supporting them and against their oppressors because he thinks that “imperialism was an evil thing” (2). He feels like he is the “by-product of imperialism” (2) since he does not fully support the victim, but also does not like the culprit. One day, Orwell was ordered by the sub-inspector to do something about the elephant that was rampaging around the bazaar. He did not want to kill it; he just want to frighten it with a loud noise from the gun. The elephant had destroyed the whole town, from killing animals to damaging houses and stores. Moreover, it had killed an Indian. The Burmese people have no defense against it; they “had ... ... middle of paper ... ...he word “old” in his essay not only to describe the way the elephant look, but also to emphasize the imperialism. When imperialism was still alive, it is powerful and can destroy almost anything that gets in its way. However, one small blow can have a big impact on it. If someone has the courage to start a rebel on imperialism, it will quickly fall down. The first shot might not knock imperialism down completely, but it will bring a huge shock to the British. After a short time—in matter of seconds, they will be panic and will not have enough strength to fight back. It then, will collapse and die like the elephant. No matter how much it wants to stand up and fight against the rebel, it will not have the energy to do so. Orwell wants to emphasize that if someone is brave enough to go against imperialism, it will not take a long time to destroy imperialism completely.
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