Based on Orwell’s unique experience with the Indian Imperial Police, the novel Shooting an Elephant is set in Lower Burma, Moulmein. As a narrator, Orwell has already started questioning the presence of the British in the Far East. As he states, theoretically and secretly, he favored the Burmese and opposed their oppressors, which were the British. As for his own personality, Orwell describes himself as ill-educated and young, hating his job.
In this regard, Orwell’s job is to respond to a report of the death of a local person murdered by an elephant in musth. He finds the person lying on his belly with arms crucified as well as head sharply twisted to the side. Exactly at this point the narrator feels the collective will of the crowd asking him to shoot the elephant, though Orwell, being aware of the fact that the elephant is probably no longer dangerous, doesn’t have an intention to shoot this animal. He starts anthropomorphizing the elephant, by simply changing the pronouns from “it” to “he,”. He tries to persuade his readers that it would be a real crime to shoot this animal.
Notwithstanding Orwell’s aversion to shoot the elephant, the narrator becomes unexpectedly aware that he’ll lose face and even be humiliated if he refused to shoot the animal. So, he had to shoot the elephant in the end. The elephant’s death itself is shown in detail. Well, even after three shots, the enormous animal is still alive. After this, the narrator has nothing to do, but to fire his two remaining shots right into the animal’s heart. But even after those two shots, it’s still alive, and unable to stand its suffering, the narrator goes away. That’s so sad, but just like the Burmese people, the elephant has become the unwitting victim of the British imperialist’s necessity to save face.
Orwell sincerely depicts his unsympathetic actions, including both shooting the animal and the aftermath, when the narrator is among British police officers. His fellow officers are assured that he did the right thing, so his face is saved.
Across the essay, the narrator weaves his thesis regarding the effects of imperialism not only on the oppressed but also on the oppressors too. The narrator says that every white man’s life in the East turned to be an everlasting struggle not to be laughed at. He points out that the white man often has to become a tyrant for his own freedom. Orwell’s essay, though is more than one person’s riveting narrative regarding the beginning of an awareness. The novel captures a universal experience of going against one’s own humanity at the shocking cost of a part of this humanity.
Based on Orwell’s unique experience with the Indian Imperial Police, the novel Shooting an Elephant is set in Lower Burma, Moulmein. As a narrator, Orwell has already started questioning the presence of the British in the Far East. As he states, theoretically and secretly, he favored the Burmese and opposed their oppressors, which were the British.