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An Analysis of Individuals Beliefs in Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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It’s ironic how some individuals are willing to push aside their moral beliefs in what is right or wrong to gain acceptance. “In Shooting An Elephant” by George Orwell we see how he puts all his true beliefs to the side to gain some sort of closure on the way the people view him. At times people are put in complex situations where they have to decide between what’s right and wrong without knowing the outcome.

The building up of the feeling of pressure starts with Orwell feeling humiliated and disrespected from the Burmese and shifts to a feeling of authority and presence as a result of the elephant’s closeness. It was a common feeling for the Burmese to be bitter towards Europeans as a result of imperialism. It seemed as though the Burmese had grown a feeling of hatred towards the British Empire. They took their hatred as far as humiliating him by tripping him in a football field in front of a large sneering crowd. “In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves.” All this was confusing and upsetting for him to the point where it poked at his self-esteem forcing him to dwell upon it constantly making him feel that the Burmese people made his job impossible.

The persistent mockery and festering anger of the Burmese people towards Orwell shapes itself differently when “early one morning the sub inspector at a police station or the end of town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar would I please come and do something about it”?

“As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out the houses and followed me.” They had seen the rifle in his hand and were all shouting excitedly that he was going to shoot the elephant. This made him feel important, powerful in control and finally gaining an upper hand as a singled out European in a bitter Burmese society. He did not want to shoot the elephant but realized it was expected of him and he had to do it. He was being pushed and pressured toward it by the people.

But finally he was getting positive attention. They did not like him but with the rifle in his hand. “I was momentarily worth watching I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward”. He felt that he was finally getting the respect and sense of authority that his position as a police officer deserved. The pressure and strain exerted from the “yellow faces” behind him compelled him to shoot. He shot not once but continued to shoot at the “enormous rushing towards the dying elephant. The poor elephant was suffering, just for Orwell to gain a sense of authority and momentary presence.

One could see that he didn’t want to shoot the elephant. “It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. I was not squeamish about killing animals. But I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.” This shows that he really didn’t want to shoot the animal it was only out of pressure and to gain respect. He didn’t actually want to kill the elephant but he was put on the spot because the natives of the country viewed white men as being cruel and they were looking on expecting him to shoot. He felt pressured it’s almost like he was subjugated into a role that he isn’t quite made for. But convention has forced him to pull the trigger. He was selfish in a sense that he was willing to do almost anything not to be “hooted” at and to feel a sense of personal satisfaction and presence in the Burmese society where he himself is a minority.

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An Analysis of Individuals Beliefs in Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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