Essay An Analysis of Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"

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"Shooting an Elephant" is one of the most popular of George Orwell's essays. Like his essays "A hanging" and "How the Poor Die", it is chiefly autobiographical. It deals with his experience as a police-officer in Burma. After having completed his education, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police, and served in Burma, from 1922 to 1927, as an Assistant Superintendent of Police. His experiences as an officer in Burma were bitter. He was often a victim of the hostility and injustices at the hands of his colleagues and officers. Peter Stansky and William Abrahams in their book The Unknown Orwell write "He was friendless and inexperienced, not certain of what to expect and fearful of proving to be inadequate, a predictable failure."

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He appears to have recollected the incident very vividly just before he wrote the, but he had obviously been thinking of it intermittently ever since it happened. In Burmese Days, written several years before, the hero Flory, on his first meeting with Elizabeth Lackersteen, describes to her `the murder of an elephant, which he had perpetrated some years earlier'. This essay reads like the leaves from the same Burmese notebooks, which Orwell used in writing his novel. It is frankly autobiographical and describes how an elephant went `must' in a bazaar and killed a man. An Englishman was expected to rise to an occasion like this, so Orwell got the rifle and marched down to the field where the elephant had gone. As soon as he saw it, he knew that it was unnecessary to kill it; the fit was over. Equally surely, he knew that he was going to shoot it. The crowd following him willed him to kill it.

M.G. Nayar writes, "This essay enables us to get a glimpse of the author's experiences in Burma where he was employed in the British Imperial Police (1922 - 1927). Orwell had already come to regard imperialism `as very largely a racket", and he knew he was ill-fitted for the role he was called upon to play. During this period of Imperial service a sense of guilt
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