Imperialism in “Shooting an Elephant”

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Orwell argues that imperialism does not always put the imperialist into a position of power. Instead, the imperialist becomes a “puppet” of those who he allegedly rules. The imperialist, in this case, Orwell, only has the appearance of power and is controlled by the demands of the natives.

Orwell supports this argument with his story of shooting the elephant as Orwell outwardly states that he does not want to kill the elephant because he feels it is not necessary to but is pressured by the natives to do so. “Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd—seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality, I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.

I perceived at this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” (Orwell 4). I am persuaded by his argument because I do feel that it is possible for the natives to have a puppet-like control over those who rule them through pressure put on the imperialists by the public to act according to their wishes.

Orwell argues from values saying that he does not want to kill the elephant because it would be “comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery” which shows how his monetary values are convincing him to not shoot the elephant. Orwell argues from the character as he talks about how not killing the elephant will anger the natives and Orwell may lose his power over them.

Orwell argues with facts and reasons by saying that the elephant is “no more dangerous than a cow” so there should be no reason to kill the elephant. Additionally, Orwell speaks from the heart by saying that “it always seems worse to kill a large animal” and that it would seem like “murder” to kill the elephant. (Orwell 3-4)

I found the part where Orwell described the moment that he shot the elephant to be the most engaging. Orwell’s use of stylish language to reveal the pressure he was put under by emphasizing the “devilish roar of glee” he heard behind him following his first shot at the elephant.

Orwell then goes on to illustrate the final moments of the elephant using very descriptive details that he observed. “He neither stirred nor fell, but every line on his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralyzed him without knocking him down.

At last, after what seemed a long time— it might have been five seconds, I dare say—he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot, he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him.

You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him, he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skywards like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.”

Cite this paper

Imperialism in “Shooting an Elephant”. (2020, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/imperialism-in-shooting-an-elephant/

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