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Shooting an Elephant

George Orwell is one of the major British novelists who have contributed to the English literature by writing his works.

Except “Animal Farm” “Shooting an Elephant” is also a very famous narrative essay that was first published in a magazine called New Writing in the year 1836 and later has come again in 1948 through BBC Home Service.

Shooting an Elephant Text

“Animalism” becomes a central topic of most of Orwell’s novels. Most of the time he writes on animals and their lives. Not only that, but keen political references also can be found in his works.

The theme of Shooting an Elephant

So, it can be said that George Orwell was perhaps very much affiliated with English politics and British Empiricism. The theme of the essay is a clash between author’s duty and his emotion.

The Book Cover of Shooting an Elephant

When George Orwell Shooting an Elephant writes this essay he takes a slide political and historical background and that provokes the author to write the essay on the death of an elephant. So, maybe the author tries to portray it as a social satire.

Shooting an Elephant Summary

The story takes place in Burma that has been colonized by the British. Here, the storytelling process is a bit different because Orwell never mentioned any name of the storyteller and that is why readers think that he himself was the policeman who was wanted to kill an elephant in Burma.


So, the author is here presenting the British imperialism by the figure of speeches. This is an essay on anti-European sentiment because in this writing George Orwell focuses on the death of the elephant that he killed for himself.

“In Moulmein, in lower Burma

I was hated by large numbers of people- the only time in my life

I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”

So, when the story begins Orwell is an office-in-charge and he gets the news of the elephant.

The elephant suddenly comes in a bazar and because of having health problems it starts walking but nothing was done wrong for that it gains a Wrongful death.

Actually, in the essay, Orwell says it had a bout of “must” which means the elephant has some hormonal disorder and that is why it becomes violent though it never any issue.

At that time, the author was sitting and watching the elephant by taking a small rifle. And after some time the poet comes in and asks the villagers about the elephant.

Some of them said it had gone and after some disruption he finds the elephant sitting in a ground. It is just chilling out in a field though never make any destruction.

“The main motive for “nonattachment”

is a desire to escape from the pain of living,

and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work.”

According to Orwell, he did not have any intention of killing the elephant. He was standing to watch the activities and perhaps trying to recognize its disability.

This segment is very important because in the author’s mind two kinds of emotions come out one is the pity for this innocent elephant that was lying innocently and another is of his duty for the people.

As an officer, he was needed to keep the people safe and on the other hand, he do not want to kill that elephant who has problem inside of its body.

At this time he is thinking all the facts and looking at the elephant. So, conflict takes place in that segment as he does know what to do next to save all of them.

The author is Shooting an Elephant

But he takes a decision and shoots on the elephant. Next to the killing, the author does not make any sentence about how he feels. At that time, the elephant still lying alive and the author faces him to die with time.

“And it is a great thing to die in your own bed

though it is better still to die in your boots.”

The death was very pathetic because it lies cold and with time it dies. After its death, people take their bones and meets for their purpose. Maybe the people wanted to kill the elephant because they wanted to have grand eating or something like that.

But the conflict that was staying in the heart of Orwell never takes a grand role moreover he says to others that it was his duty to kill the elephant and save all the lives.

Though it can be said that the author had sorrow in himself that does not speak to the readers for killing the elephant.

The conflict of ‘Id’ and ‘ego’ takes the author into a wrong path where he makes the murder of a life. The story ends here but he was needed to continue the emotion some more time.

Shooting an Elephant Analysis

This essay gets critical attention from English critics. It is a pure essay of emotion and sentiments.

“When the white man turns tyrant

it is his own freedom that he destroys.”

The conflict between ‘Id’ and ‘ego’ states on the racialism where a white man is killing an elephant for no reason. He becomes the main face of the British Empire.


The colonial aspect is also taking place because Orwell becomes the colonize who kills the colonized people by killing the elephant.

Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

According to the critics, this essay is perfectly composed with the author’s hidden emotions and sentiments. A movie also formed in this essay and the audience takes the film positively.

Rhetorical Analysis

If it is a matter of rhetorical device then the whole essay has many rhetorical devices. Imperialism, animalism, colonialism, humanism all takes place by the author’s description.

Questions and Answers

What does shooting an elephant say about imperialism?

It says about the difference in the mindset of people.

What is the main conflict in George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant?

The main conflict is between the author’s mind that he will kill or not.

Why did George Orwell shoot the elephant?

He shot the elephant to do his own duty.

What is the main theme of shooting an elephant?

The main theme is cultural boundaries against humanism.

What is the irony in shooting an elephant?

British Colonialism is the irony of Shooting an Elephant.

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