Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
Abstract- This story is about a police officer in Burma. Police officers there were hated by large numbers of people. They were a target and often tripped or spit upon. All of this to him was very upsetting. He had decided that imperialism was evil. He was all for the Burmese and against the British secretly. One day something happened to him that gave him a better perspective on imperialism. Early one morning the sub-inspector at the police station called him up saying there was an elephant ravaging the bazaar. He found out the elephant wasn’t wild but tame and used for work. His owner had tried to go and get him but went in the wrong direction and was hours away. When he got to the bazaar, a van was tipped over but no one could get their story straight to tell him where it went. Finally he heard someone cry out to children to go away. A man had been stepped on and killed. As soon as he saw the man he sent someone to get a rifle. Later he noticed his mistake. People became very interested once they thought he was going to shoot it. He did not in any way want to kill that elephant. He didn’t think it was going to do anymore harm and the owner would be very angry. He said it would be like destroying a piece of machinery. But all those people there were pressuring him to do something; it was expected of him. He didn’t want to be laughed at his whole life for not shooting the elephant and not acting like a man. He knew what he ought to do, but didn’t want to appear weaker than the natives. He shot him once in the brain. The bullet only paralyzed him but he didn’t die. He kept shooting him over and over. After awhile he just left because he couldn’t take it anymore. He heard later that it took the elephant half an hour to die. After that people were in disagreement as to whether it was the right thing to do.

Contextual Connections- This story is very different from what would happen in America. Police officers are respected and feared, not spit upon. In one part he says that, “the greatest joy in the world to him would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts.” You tend to wonder what had happened in his life to make him feel that way. Another difference is it would take the owner twelve hours to return after going the wrong direction and for us only about one hour. The transportation is horses and ponies, not fancy cars or anything with a motor. The people in that village found it exciting when he was going to go shoot the elephant. They didn’t show much interest when the elephant was turned against them. He had no intention of shooting the elephant but because of his pride and peer pressure he felt that he had no other choice. “A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of ‘natives’.” He felt this sense of superiority and couldn’t back down. In the end he was just trying to put the elephant out of its misery by shooting it so many times, but he gave up. Many of those people didn’t realize that he only did it to not look like a fool.