Sep 12 2008
Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
Shooting an Elephant
1. Explain the implied assumption underlying the statement in the first sentence.
The assumption is that people only paid attention to him to hate him. Attention was paid to him only in a negative matter and that people sometimes go unnoticed not because they are not important, but because no one despises them or is jealous of him or her.
2. Describe the nature of the voice in the opening paragraph. How does he use irony and humor?
The fact that he is a police officer and he is the one being mistreated and made fun of is a bit funny and ironic at the same time. Police are supposed to sustain order and peace and he is just getting walked all over by the people. More irony and humor is applied when he writes about the monks. Monks are usually supposed to be obedient and live lives of peace and poverty. He describes them as standing on street corners and jeering at Europeans.
3. What is Orwell’s attitude towards imperialism?
He thinks that imperialism is an “evil thing” and wants to quit his job so he wouldn’t have to deal with it.
4. What is Orwell’s attitude towards native peoples?
He thinks that they are a bit hypocritical because they act rudely toward him in the street and in public, but then they need something in the form of protection or arms, they are in first in line to ask him shamelessly. They do not even think twice about asking him t kill the elephant that has been stomping around the town.
5. What is Orwell’s attitude towards his own position in Burma?
I think that Orwell thinks that his job is a bit meaningless because of the way people act toward him. Instead of the citizens not wanting to look faulty in his eyes, he is worried about what they think of him instead.
6. In the second paragraph, what is suggested by the qualifiers “and secretly, of course” and “if you can catch him off duty”?”
During the day, the mask they wear is one that they like imperialism but in reality they don’t. After hours they can speak their minds, but during the day they have to obey the higher power.
7. Note Orwell’s language in paragraph 5. What are the rhetorical effects of “merely ravaging their homes” and “as it would be to an English crowd.”
Merely ravaging their homes seems a bit of a paradox because ravaging a home does not seem like it could be a quiet matter or one of unimportance. The Burmese are usually calm people but when Orwell decides to shoot the elephant, they become a little rowdy and excited, like the English do during an event. They let loose a little because the idea of watching the elephant get shot seemed like fun to them.
8. Why does Orwell shoot the elephant even though he knows he shouldn’t? Be specific about the reasons.
In the last sentence of the essay, Orwell says he killed the animal because he didn’t want to seem like a fool. While the whole crowd is following him to the animal, they are silently pressuring him to go through with it. They fully expect him to finish the animal off. Even though he doesn’t like his job and the people do not treat him like officers are treated in other countries, he still thinks about how he is perceived by these people.
9. In paragraph 11, Orwelll says, “At last after what seemed like a long time–it might have been five seconds, I dare say–he sagged flabbily to his knees. “ Explain what the characterization of the time period says about Orwell.
The agonizing seconds while the animal is dying seem like eternity for Orwell. Because even though he did not want to kill the animal, he does anyway and the guilt he feels creeps in on him and seems to prolong time while he looks at the animal that he has inflicted pain on.
10. Compare and contrast the description of the killing of the elephant (par. 11) with the killing of the Indian (par. 4). Why does he describe them so differently?
He seems to describe the incident with the Indian the way that it actually happened, they way he experienced it but with no real emotion involved. This is either because he doesn’t feel any great remorse for what has happened to the Indian, or because what happened was not because of his own actions. When he explains how the elephant dies, his emotions are apparent. There is a sense of urgency as he tries to ease the animal’s pain by shooting it multiple times.
11. The Final paragraph presents Europeans’ views of the elephant killing. Explain the differences.
The Europeans had a split view of the killing of the elephant. Some say that it was necessary and some say it wasn’t. The Burmese really thought twice about what should happen to the elephant, but had there been multiple Europeans on the scene, I’m sure the decision on how to act would have taken much longer and the approach would have been much different. The elephant destroyed property and took someone’s life, that was all the evidence the Burmese needed to justify killing the elephant.
12. What is he getting at with this story? In what way does the personal story of Orwell mirror the larger story of Colonialism and Imperialism? What would it compare to today?
The elephant represents imperialism because in a sense he is powerful and disturbs the people he interacts with. An event that it compares to today would be the Iraq war. America plays the part of a foreign power and the Iraqi people have no control over where the soldiers go and try to defend.