Shooting an Elephant

Published: 2019-11-07
Shooting an Elephant
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Education Culture Psychology Business
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 585 words
5 min read

"For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the 'natives' and so in every crisis, he has got to do what the 'natives' expect of him" (include page)

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Qualities of the Narrator







George Orwell is a prominent and respected literary figure with works like animal farm and nineteen eighty-four under his belt. Of all his works his essays strike me the most with shooting an Elephant being among the best. Orwell approaches the subject with such honesty that allows the reader to experience the event in his own right without condemnation while still being guided by his (Orwell's) thoughts on the matter.

In shooting an elephant, he (Orwell) comes to enlightenment about the rule of the British in India. The masses expect him to shoot the elephant as to them it is both a sport and they want the meat. Orwell, however, has all the facts in hand. From his point of view, shooting the elephant is unnecessary and even an act of brutality since the elephant is past must and has a kind, "grandmotherly" air to it. Shooting the elephant would also mean a huge and unnecessary loss to its mahout. Yet Orwell has to shoot the elephant. There is a crowd of more than two thousand people watching him. By requesting for a rifle, he has committed himself to shooting the elephant and walking away would elicit laughter from the crowd.

Orwell says he had to shoot the elephant at least three separate times. One can argue that he had the choice, as his hands were literally not tied (to the gun). The line, "For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the 'natives' and so in every crisis he has got to do what the 'natives' expect of him (Orwell, 2016)." Orwell makes me reconsider my initial opinion and to some extent see what he means by he had no choice. To maintain its rule above the despotic government, the British government has to impress the natives, in this case by doing what the native constables cannot do and the natives so want to be done, shooting the elephant.

Orwell's choice of words had a great impact on me making me rethink the rightfulness and suitability of the imperial government. The word impress in this quote emphasizes the immaturity and needlessness of imperial rule. You would think that in ruling over another people, the British and other colonial governments for that matter were better suited to rule than the natives were. It is in fact for this reason, among other more truthful ones that countries took colonies. In the Berlin Conference, European powers formalized their colonies in the Middle East and Africa with the pretext of teaching and preparing these nations for civilization. Theoretically, this is all a benevolent cause yet in practicality, the workers of the British government for example Orwell are as human as the natives and are driven by the need to impress the locals (Orwell, 2009). Impress is a word that brings an image of third graders on the playground playing cheeky pranks to be noticed and liked. Not a good picture for a government whose aim is to prepare another nation for civilization.


Orwell, G. (2009). Shooting an Elephant : The Seanachai. Retrieved 26 September 2016, from

Orwell, G. (2016). Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. YouTube. Retrieved 26 September 2016, from

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