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George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant

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Essay title: George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant

George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” is an essay about a British police officer living in Lower Burma who goes through the trial and error process of making the right decisions while still trying to maintain an image and position of authority. The officer is hated by the Burmese people, which is clearly shown when he would play football. The Burmese were extremely unfair to the officer due to the fact he was part of the Imperialist group which was oppressing Burma. (para. 1) Although the officer is hated he feels “Imperialism, [is] an evil thing” and he “[is] all for the Burmese and against their oppressors, the British,” his own kind. (para. 2)

When an incident occurs the officer is summoned to regulate. An elephant has gone into a state of “must” in a remote location littered with poor Burmese citizens. (para. 3) On the way to find the beast the officer sees a man lying in the mud, brutally mauled and dead. After seeing this “devilish” looking man he starts to ponder that he may actually have to kill this elephant if he is in danger. Rifle in hand and a crowd behind he continues his journey. (para. 4) The officer realizes the crowd is excited at the thought he is going to kill this elephant. Killing the elephant would provide entertainment and food for them. At the bottom of the hill the officer and crowd behind see the elephant across the road “peacefully eating.” The officer knows the elephant has passed it’s stage of “must” and not to shoot it. He decides to observe the elephant to see if the state of “must” has truly passed instead of shooting it. (para. 5 & 6) The officer has made up his mind until he “glances” at the immense crowd cheering him on and feels uneasy about his decision. The crowd would be angry and hate the British officer more if he did not shoot. The officer is faced with the decision of either shooting the elephant and pleasing the Burmese while appearing strong and dominating as a British

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