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"Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

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Amy Patrick

on 18 October 2016

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Transcript of "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant
Audience
Subject
Occasion
by George Orwell
Why Description?
This narrative is a prime example of descriptive writing to engage the readers. He describes the elephant eating by saying,
"He took not the slightest notice of the crowd's approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth."
This description paints a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Another example of Orwell's descriptive writing is
"I marched down the hill, looking and feeling like a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels."
This description shows a clear picture of Orwell himself.
This essay describes George Orwell’s experience in Burma when he was confronted with the issue of whether or not to shoot an elephant that had caused trouble in the town. He compares this situation with the British occupancy of Burma. He also discusses his internal debate of whether or not to shoot the elephant. He speaks of the British occupancy of Burma and the hostility of the Burmese people toward the British.
"Shooting An Elephant" is based on Orwell's experience while serving in the British Imperial Police during the occupation of Burma. The British were in control of Burma (now known as Myanmar) up until their independence in 1948. During this time, the Burmese people were quite hostile toward the British.
The audience in “Shooting an Elephant” is Imperial Britain and the Europeans in general. Orwell is speaking to the British population about their Imperial government and how it is ineffective, hurtful, and oppressive to all.
Purpose
Orwell’s purpose was to show the oppressiveness of British Imperial rule.

Imperialism is harmful to everyone, to the oppressed and the oppressor.
“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”

Imperialism takes away freedom for even the Imperialists.
“But I did not want to shoot the elephant.... It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him.”

Orwell also demonstrates how peer pressure occurs and proves its relevance by stating how he was talked into shooting the elephant.
Style
In “Shooting an Elephant”, George Orwell uses formal diction, syntax, process analysis, as well as appealing to ethos.
He uses some words from Hindu and Greek (bazaars; saecula saeculorum; mahout.)
Orwell uses process analysis because he shows the steps of the story in which the elephant is shot.
Ethos is established in the first few paragraphs, where we understand that he is a reasonable man. Without the ethos found at the beginning of the story, we would not understand the irony that the purpose of the story holds.
Tone
The essay has a very tragic tone to it. Orwell describes the elephant’s death and the moments leading up to its shooting with much detail. Orwell also uses some elements of distress to express his controversy with shooting the elephant. The tone is also angry at times, as Orwell is angry at British Imperial rule and his role in it.
Real Life Connections
Think for a moment about how many of your decisions are influenced by people in your life. For example:
Parents or friends may influence college or work choices
Friends may influence social activities
Parents and teachers may influence academic performance
Society may influence public behavior
Laws may influence decisions
Full transcript