Moral Issues and Decisions in George Orwell's Shooting an Elephant

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Moral Issues and Decisions in Shooting an Elephant

Throughout "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, he addresses his internal battle with the issues of morality and immorality. He writes of several situations that show his immoral doings. When George Orwell signed up for a five-year position as a British officer in Burma he was unaware of the moral struggle that he was going to face. Likewise, he has an internal clash between his moral conscious and his immoral actions. Therefore, Orwell becomes a puppet to the will of the Burmese by abandoning his thoughts of moral righteousness. This conflicts with the moral issue of relying upon other's morals, rather than one's own conscience.

During Orwell's time in India he
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Orwell next faces the moral dilemma of whether or not to shoot the elephant. At first, it is clear that he does not feel the internal urge to shoot the elephant: "It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him" (Orwell.525). However, Orwell's virtue becomes dwarfed as the Burmese's "two thousand wills [press him] forward"(524) to kill the elephant. At this point there is an obvious role reversal as the Burmese begin to strongly influence Orwells decisions. Because he constantly dwells on what the crowd will think of him he shoots the elephant. Thus submitting to the will of the people and committing the immoral deed of abandoning ones own conscious because of the pressure of others.

The reader sees a glimpse of Orwell's moral conscious when he displays his feelings of unrest at his unethical decision. He writes, "It seemed dreadful to see the great beast lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die"(526). The elephant suffers a prolonged, agonizing death because Orwell did not have a hunter's knowledge of how to kill the elephant; thus his shot penetrated the elephant in the wrong spot. As a result, the guilt grows and he "could not stand it any longer"(527) and left the site. Orwell realizes that he committed an atrocity. However he tries to defend his action. It seems that Orwell is trying to make himself feel better by justifying his wrongdoing. He
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