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    An In-depth Analysis of George Orwell’s Essay “Shooting an Elephant”

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    George Orwells essay Shooting an Elephant shows how imperialism makes the Burmese and the British powerless. In Shooting an Elephant the British have colonized India. The Europeans powerlessness is seen through George Orwell, a sub-divisional police officer, and the Indians powerlessness is seen through their lack of control in political and economic aspects. Countries in an imperial relationship do not have as much power as they believe.

    The British lack of power is seen through Europeans living among the Burmese. Orwell notes that… if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit beetle juice over her dress. The British have little control over the Burmese harassment and can do nothing about the fact that Burmans are treating their women with no respect. The British have tenuous control over the Indians. If a revolt were to occur in India, then only the British in India would suffer, most likely with their lives. The British might win the battle in the long run, but there would be a great number of British casualties in India before the British attacked from Great Britain.

    The British in India know that they will suffer if they push the Indians too far. This fact is why the British do not do anything when the Indians harass them. Orwells lack of power, as an authority figure, is seen when he says, When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. He can do nothing about the Burmans harassment. He also says the Burmans laugh and jeer at him all day long. He can do nothing because there are so many Indians and so few British in India. Orwell says, No one had the guts to raise a riot,…. None of the Burmans needed to riot because the British were taking their verbal abuses and not doing anything to stop the harassment.

    Orwells lack of power is also seen in the scene with the elephant. The elephant is on a rampage through the Burmans town. Orwell is called on to handle the matter. The elephant has destroyed a hut and killed a Burman or collie, as the British call them. The elephant is grazing in a field when Orwell first sees it. He had gotten a gun to protect himself from the elephant when he saw the dead Burman, but now there is no need to kill the elephant because he was not disturbing anything.

    The Burmans become excited because they think Orwell is going to kill the elephant. He never has any intention of shooting the elephant until he sees all the Burmans and how excited they were that he was going to kill the elephant. He debates whether to kill the elephant: It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. In debating whether or not to kill the elephant, his plan is dangerous because it will get him close enough to the elephant to where it might charge him. He knows if he does not kill the elephant that the Burmans will be disappointed. He does not want to kill it, but if it charges him he will have no choice but to kill it.

    This plan makes him content because he will be justified in killing the elephant and the Burmans will be happy because they will get to eat the elephant. But he is scared that if something goes wrong the Burmans may kill him. This idea makes him come to his final decision to kill the elephant, even though he does not want to. He has to kill the elephant its what the Burmans expect him to do. This scene shows the Europeans lack of power because the Burmans force Orwell to kill the elephant.

    The Burmese have no power over their politics or economy. The British exploit the Burmese. As long as the British control India the Burmese will have no choice of what kind of government they would prefer. They have to recognize the British Monarchy. If they do not, the British will force them to by military action. They also have no economic choices. The British control Indias raw materials and trade and they get all the profits that come from Indias markets and businesses.

    Yet despite their power, the British cannot eradicate the deep resentment of the Burmese for British colonialism. Both the British and the Indians are put in roles that make them powerless. The British control the Indians economic and political lives, making the Indians powerless in their decisions of how to rule themselves. Yet the British are threatened by the Indians harassment and fear a Burmese revolt. Imperialism puts both countries involved in a state of powerlessness.

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    An In-depth Analysis of George Orwell’s Essay “Shooting an Elephant”. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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