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Symbolism in Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"

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by

Bob Jenkins

on 13 December 2012

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Transcript of Symbolism in Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"

Symbolism in Orwell's
"Shooting an Elephant" How is the story within this essay symbolic? The second layer of the story describes the consequences and eventual fall of imperialism. What is the symbol of the elephant? The Elephant symbolizes the imperialistic British Empire. His death at Orwell's hands shows the fall of the British Empire at the hands of its own officials. The Attack of "must" The attack of "must" is akin to the British Empire's routine of enforcing their dominance and power over the Burmese. The Laboured Death Orwell and his consideration of whether to shoot the elephant or not The end of the British Empire's influence in her colonies did not come quickly, but was the result of numerous outbursts throughout the empire. These violent outbursts are symbolized through the ravaging of the elephant. The Elephant Gun Orwell represents the generic British official working in a British colony.

Orwell's dilemma exemplifies the decision British officials have to make in whether their allegiance belongs to their state, or to the people they serve. The Coolie The elephant gun represents the power of the British Empire. At first, the gun is used to control the colonists, but when Orwell uses it to kill the elephant in order to appease the colonists, the power of the British Empire is turned against itself. Orwell's Medium Being published generally to the British, the majority of Orwell's audience would not have considered the perspective and position of the Burmese if written simply as a blatant story or exposition. Thus, Orwell uses symbolism to present his message through a narrative. The dead coolie represents the maltreated Burmese, trampled by the British Empire. The Chaining of the Elephant The Burmese chaining the elephant (British Empire) symbolizes how the British must live up to the expectation of its colonies.
“When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib.” Para. 7 Don't shoot me,
bro The Three Shots The three shots symbolize the three big events that end imperialism:
1) The Great Depression
2) WWI
3) Rise of authoritarian regimes (e.g. Soviet Union and Nazi Party) Described as "lying on his belly with arms crucified",
there is a clear allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus.
The coolie is sacrificed in order to justify Orwell's actions. This symbolizes how the people killed in colonies were "sacrificed" in order to justify rebellions and wars against the Imperialist countries. The Message The story describes what causes the downfall of imperialism. It shows that imperialism is outdated.
The story is an attempt to show the British population that it's time to move on from this old ideology.
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