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The Finale of Evil in Orwell's Shooting an Elephant Essay

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell faces a dilemma: whether or not to kill the elephant. With his final decision, the elephant finally lays dead in front of thousands of people. He explains that he was forced to shoot it because the Burmese people were expecting him to do that. In addition, he has to do it “to avoid looking like a fool” (14) in front of the crowd. 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), where the elephant represents the British Empire.
Orwell is ambivalent about the Burmese people. At the beginning of his essay, he recalls how Burmans treated him when he was still working in Burma as a police officer. He is “hated by large numbers of people” (1). Not only he was hated by the Burmese, but all Europeans who were living in Burma went through the same experience. He is upset by this unfair treatment, yet at the same time secretly supports them against their oppressors because “imperialism was an evil thing” (2). He feels like a “by-product of imperialism” (2) since he did not fully support the victim, but neither did he like the culprit.
One day, the sub-inspector orders Orwell to do something about the elephant that was rampaging around the bazaar. He does not want to kill it; he just wants to frighten it with a loud noise from the gun. The elephant destroyed the town, from killing animals to damaging houses and stores. Moreover, it killed an Indian. The Burmese people “had no weapons and were quite helpless against it” (3). Seeing the massive destruction done by the elephant, Orwell sends an order to borrow an elephant rifle from his friend t...


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...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.
Orwell has a split opinion about imperialism. He hated it for the way it treated the Burmese people, but he had to intention to destroy it in the first place. Just like the elephant, he did not like the way it destroyed the Burmese’s home, but he did not want to shoot it. However, seeing how much damage the elephant had done to the Burmese, he knew that something has to be done about it. Similar to the elephant case, something has to be done about imperialism, too. If someone has the courage to go against imperialism, it will be destroyed in no time—just like the elephant.


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