Get help now

Human Nature in “Shooting An Elephant”

Academic anxiety?

Get original paper in 3 hours and nail the task

Get help now

124 experts online

Human nature is ‘the fundamental dispositions and traits of humans.’ (“Human Nature.” Merriam-Webster) Human nature can be divided into two spheres: good and bad. Good human nature means to have desires like doing something which can make oneself or others feel good while bad human nature means to have bad desires like selfishness, irritation, abhorrence, etc. In the short essay ‘Shooting an elephant’, written by George Orwell, shows human nature as the decision-making on whether killing the elephant or not. (“Human Nature.” Human Nature | Wisdom Commons) The elephant at last was being killed by the narrator because of the selfishness of the Burmese. Although the narrator shows his good desire through the struggle in his conscious that he didn’t want to kill that pure animal at first, but he also shows his bad desire by killing the elephant because he didn’t want to be humiliated by the Burmese.

Furthermore, the Burmese also show their bad desires by creating pressure to the narrator on killing the elephant as to get benefit from the elephant. From the short essay ‘Shooting an Elephant, we can see an element from the bad human nature: selfishness. The following content shows selfishness can be found not only in the short essay but also in the modern society like cyberbullying, discrimination, etc. Selfish decision turns justified things into unjustified. Take the short essay as an example, the elephant is justified to be pure and innocent. It killed a coolie without intension but just because it just gone ‘must’. The Burmese no longer see the whole thing as justified because the ‘must’ elephant may cause danger to their lives anytime, they suggest the narrator to kill the elephant and thus the justified animal was being killed and they can get the meat as benefits from the elephant. This shows the bad human nature of the Burmese.

On the other hand, the narrator shows a conflict inside his heart by saying: ‘But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to.’ (“Shooting an Elephant.”, North Anthology of English Literature) He is under the pressure of the selfish Burmese, so he needs to kill the innocent elephant. However, the narrator also shows his bad desire by saying: ‘I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.’ (“Shooting an Elephant.”, North Anthology of English Literature) From this, we can see the selfishness of the narrator that he killed the elephant also because he doesn’t want to be chastened by the Burmese anymore.

Apart from the example in the short essay, examples of the selfishness turn justified things into unjustified or vice versa can be found in the real and virtual world. Let’s talk about the examples which happen in the real world: discrimination. Discrimination means to treat a ‘person or particular group of people differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which you treat other people, because of their skin colour, sex, sexuality, etc.’ (“DISCRIMINATION | Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.”) Skin colour discrimination and gender discrimination are the most widely discussed topics around the wold. First, skin colour discrimination happens all the time in the European countries by setting up populist government to discriminate people from different nationalities. Aside from the European countries, skin colour discrimination also happens in the Asian regions like Hong Kong. Suskihanna Gurung, a Nepalese student graduated from HKU, states that skin colour discrimination is still a serious problem in Hong Kong. Her grandfather migrated to Hong Kong with his family when he was young and thus, she is raised in Hong Kong as a native, but her skin colour is different from the others in Hong Kong and thus she is being discriminated. (“Nepalese Hongkonger Is Bringing the City’s Racial Discrimination against Ethnic Minorities to the United Nations.”, Young Post | South China Morning Post)

From her experience being discriminated by the Hong Kong citizens, we can see discrimination usually occurs when you have different skin colour compare to the others and the news from the media may affect the impression of a nation. Once the impression is affected, then the other nations may start to criticize or discriminate whoever from that nation. “They see the colour of my skin and they see my ethnicity. Recently somebody told me: ‘Why don’t you join your mother in the hotel field? You can make up the beds as well’.” She also points that Hong Kong citizens have a bad stereotype of Nepalese because of the media: “A lot of the time in Chinese media, they have news about how Nepalese men are gangsters, drug abusers and start fights with people. We also get accused of being fake refugees when we were born and raised here.” Second, gender discrimination is also a problem in Asian countries. In China, gender discrimination rooted intensely in the society as the Chinese believe in ‘Confucianism’ which states that women should stay in their domestic spheres while male can go out to work. (“Beauty Is in the Eye of the Employer in China.” South China Morning Post)

Although the Chinese government has developed laws to protect female from discrimination, but discrimination in workplace still happens nowadays. As to support this idea, a news about gender discrimination which happens in the workplaces and reflects the employers use the idea of Confucianism that women belong to domestic sphere to discriminate female employees, this directly affects the occupations and positions of female. Moreover, the competitions between genders in the workplaces are intensive nowadays. When they compete for the same position, male become selfish and start to think in the way which only benefits them only and they start to discriminate female as to increase the probabilities to win that position from women. The news reported ‘an investigation by Renmin University of China released in March revealed that employers more reluctant to offer key positions to women who have had a second child, believing the women will need to spend great amounts of time and energy caring for their children.’ (“Progress, challenges in gender equality in China”, China Daily) The two examples show selfishness turns justified things into unjustified and vice versa. Although discrimination is unjustified as it opposes the idea of equality in human philosophy that all human should be treated the same, but people from the other nations/of different gender may start to stand for the rights of their races/gender and thus they think what they have done is justified. Sometimes, benefits can also be the cause of a nation/ gender discriminating the others as people who are selfish do not have the idea of generous. Those people start to claim that they discriminate people from other nations/gender is justified because they keep their benefits for their nation/gender. Selfishness affect the judgement also happens in the virtual world like cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is ‘any harassment that occurs via the internet, cell phones or other devices’ through sending or posting bad intentional comments. (Cyber Bullying Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc.) Internet provides us a bulky and convenient platform for communication, entertainment, stay updated for the news around the world, etc. In this large platform, we have the liberty of speech which allows us to express our idea or thoughts without the need of responsibilities. However, when we lose our bottom line in the liberty of speech, then cyberbullying occurs. Those selfish people use their emotions instead of logic to think or express an idea. They consider internet as a landfill where they can vent their feelings and use bad intentional comments as weapons to harm the others. Some of them just do this for their benefits by producing news in the internet to turn justified things into unjustified.

Take a recent news about the disastrous bus accident in Chongqing as an example, ‘the bus plunged 50m (164ft) off a bridge into the Yangtze River in Chongqing’ and cause 13 deaths with two people are still missing. The security footage revealed the truth by showing the fight between the bus driver and a female passenger before the bus accident happened. The female passenger was angry that the bus driver had missed her stop, so she used her cell phone to hit the bus driver and request to get off from the bus and the bus driver fight back and caused this tragedy. (“Chongqing Bus Plunge Caused by Fight between Driver and Passenger”, BBC News) Before revealing the video recording from the security footage, the people began to cyberbully the bus driver in Weibo that he fought back the passenger was the cause of this accident, it was his responsibility to explain the regulations to the female passenger, he could apply the brake earlier to avoid this accident, etc. But the fact is the driver did obey the road regulations that he cannot stop in the middle of the bridge and let the female passenger gets off as it is illegal. We can see the selfishness of the people who cyberbullied the driver before the truth was revealed and the participants of this accident. Professor Yuan Bin think the bus driver, the female passenger and the others all are disqualified in public morality and he claims that the female passenger ignored the safety of other passengers by hitting the bus driver who was driving and the bus driver that the bus driver ignored his professional ethics as he fought back. He also points out the mistake of the passengers who kept silent during the whole process and no one came out to stop the fight between the female passenger and the bus driver. (“袁斌:重慶公車墜江是中國亂象的真實反映 – 大紀元.”)

After exploring the examples from the story and the modern society, we can see that all people have their bad desire like selfishness. Once we use selfishness to make judgement, we may distort the truth and turn justified thing into unjustified or vice versa. All human can have bad desire, but we also need to have an idea that the amount of people think whether a particular thing is justified or not cannot be the foundation to judge whether something is really justified or not and thus we should stop using selfishness to make judgement from now on.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

Need custom essay sample written special for your assignment?

Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

Order custom paper Without paying upfront

Human Nature in “Shooting An Elephant”. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Hi, my name is Amy 👋

In case you can't find a relevant example, our professional writers are ready to help you write a unique paper. Just talk to our smart assistant Amy and she'll connect you with the best match.

Get help with your paper