The Elephant as a Symbol for Imperialism in "Shooting an Elephant”

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell retold an occasion where he was struggling to come to a final decision of whether to shoot the elephant or not. With his final decision, the elephant finally lay dying in front of thousands of people. He said that he was forced to shoot it because the Burmese people were expecting him to do that. In addition, he also explained that he had to do it “to avoid looking like a fool” in front of the crowd (14). At first glance, one would think that it makes sense for him to kill the elephant to save his face, but that was not the case. He effectively uses this incident to demonstrate the “real nature of imperialism” (3), whereas the elephant represents the British Empire. Orwell was ambivalent about …show more content…
Upon seeing the rifle, a huge crowd started to follow him. He had no intention to kill the elephant. However, the crowd was expecting him to shoot it. They did not want to kill it because it had destroyed the bazaar, but rather to enjoy the fun and to get the elephant meat. The crowd’s expectation leaves Orwell no choice but to shoot the elephant. He points out that he had to shoot it to “impress the ‘natives’” (7). If he had not done it, the crowd would have laugh at him, and it would hurt his pride as a white man living in the East. In the end, he decided to trigger the gun and shot the elephant. The elephant, in this case, represent imperialism. Orwell, being in the middle of imperialism and the Burmese people, did not want to destroy imperialism in the first place even though he does not like the way it treated the innocent Burmese people. However, seeing the elephant destroying Burmese’s homes and lives, he finally realized what imperialism had done to the people of Burma. The Indian man who died represent the fact that Burmese people are weak against the British; they are poor and have neither strength nor “the gut to raise a riot” (1) against imperialism regardless of how much they hated it. Even though he did not kill imperialism like the way he did to the elephant, he believes that it will be destroy one day for the evil thing that they had done. As illustrated by Orwell,