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Shooting an Elephant
Transcript of Shooting an Elephant
By: George Orwell
This appears to be an anecdote because the character is describing his experiences being a English sub-divisional police officer in Burma. He tells the reader that if a European woman went through the bazaars alone, someone would most likely spit betel juice on her dress. The Character also tells the reader that he felt as if he were bait to the town’s people being an English man. He tells incidents of himself being insulted constantly. In conclusion, the text is about shooting the elephant and the mournful death of the elephant that is told through the perspective of the author.
The beginning of the essay grabs the reader’s attention because the character starts off by talking about his personal life. He uses the words I and me. He interests the readers by his life experiences and makes the reader feel petty towards him. “As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.” (1, 3). The choice of diction in the beginning also will grab the readers attention.
The topic of this essay and subject being discussed is the remorseful shooting of the elephant. The essay revolves around the detailed description of what happened that day Orwell shot the elephant. It also focuses on the meaning of the elephant and how is represents the power of imperialism over Orwell and the people of Burma.
George Orwell, an officer of the British Imperial Police in Burma in the town of Moulmein considers himself an enemy of imperialism; but his role as a representative of the British crown invites the hatred of the Burmese. One day an elephant ravages a bazaar and kills a local man. Orwell then is called to track the elephant down, who has no intention of shooting it; he finds the animal grazing peacefully in a puddle. He feels he must maintain confident and strong in front of the Burmese crowd who followed right behind. Inexperienced, he repeatedly wounds the elephant leaving the scene before the tragic death actually occurs, the villagers ecstatic, then proceed to cut and skin the elephants body for food. The anecdote ends by him stating the following “And after wards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant.”
This essay is a personal essay. It is a personal essay because it is an in depth analysis of an event that happened in the life of the author himself. This essay is all about the day he shot the elephant, it focuses on his thoughts while it was happening, and how he came to make the decision of shooting the elephant.
Type of Essay
“One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism–the real motives for which despotic governments act.”
“It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant–it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery–and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided.”
Here the author uses logos to make a comparison. Comparing the living elephant to an expensive piece of machinery makes the reader realize how useless and meaningless it is to destroy something that still has so much to offer.
“Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further.”
Here the author uses pathos with his extremely vivid language. This is just one example of how Orwell uses vivid language in this essay, throughout the entire essay it is full of vivid language and imagery making it very easy for the reader to envision everything that is happening in his surroundings, thoughts, and to the elephant.
Orwell also uses pathos in the form of telling a story, since this entire essay is more like a story than an essay.
“All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically–and secretly, of course–I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.”
Here the author uses ethos with his use of personal branding. He clearly states that he is against imperialism and that he is for the people of Burma. This separates him from the rest of the British who agree with imperialism. Although no one else can know this, he hates his job and has a guilty conscious for what he is doing here in Burma.
“I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.”
This last sentence is the memorable summary and persuasive twist to this essay. This sentences restates what the author has been feeling throughout the entire essay. He clearly says that he did not want to shoot the elephant but he had to and only did it to uphold his reputation and image as a British officer. Even though he did not want to shoot the elephant he had to what would look best on his and the rest of British men in Burma, in this sense imperialism and his authority over the people ended up controlling his actions.
The title is very appropriate for this essay and not surprising at all. The title clearly directs you into what the essay will be about and what will be happening in this essay. It is not misleading or confusing, it is straight to the point and clear.
The Elements of Style
The voice of the Essay is George Orwell himself, he talks about the tragic experience that he went through. The voice is indeed emotionally involved because it talks about the killing of an animal and his emotions throughout. It also gets the reader emotionally ready because you know that he is going to further on talk about how it dies. In the essay he states the following “I had no intention of shooting the elephant- I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary- and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you.”
The tone is both reflective and personal; as he recounts the dramatic incident that clearly affects him that he remembers so vividly. He is however intending pity and regret as well. We come to an understanding of his conflicting feelings toward the Burmese people among whom he lives as a officer. At the time when he was forced by circumstances to destroy the elephant, senselessly, he was largely motivated by fear. He was also outnumbered by the crowd and trapped by the role of authority he was expected to play. He does his duty to kill the elephant but it troubles his conscience at the time.
Language and Sentence Patterns
The language is formal. George Orwell avoids using colloquial words, avoids contractions and avoids using abbreviated words.
Orwell uses a combination of complex and compound sentences. He mainly uses more complex sentences throughout this essay.
Orwell used an adequate amount of rhetoric in his writing and makes the reader feel that they were there when the incident took place because of Orwell's use of specific examples and clear language. This includes Imagery, Similes, metaphors and Irony. Irony is a literary device that brings out surprising or amusing contradictions. In verbal irony, the intended meaning of words clash with their usual meaning, as when Orwell describes the dangerous elephant as “grandmotherly.” In irony of situation, events contradict what you expect to happen, as when the young Buddhist priests are revealed to be the most insulting toward the British.
At the end of the essay, Orwell is overwhelmed by peer pressure and does not want to look like a fool in front of the villagers who expect him to shoot the elephant so he ultimately conforms and kills the elephant.
There are similes used to compare the blood that oozed out of the elephant to red velvet. “Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die.”
Another simile is used to compare the falling of the elephant to a huge rock tumbling. “But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree.”
There is also an onomatopoeia used when the author describes the breaths of the elephant as long and rattling which also helps the reader add sound to his or her mental picture of the situation.
"It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery": The phrase, "a huge and costly piece of machinery" describes in a telling manner the utilitarian value and economic importance of an elephant to the local Burmese in the timber business. The elephants were the only means of hauling the logs of wood in Orwell's time.
Forming your Conclusion
This essay focuses on Orwell shooting the elephant and how he did not want to do it at all. This topic that is very emotional and sad is shown throughout this essay in an extremely convincing and persuasive way. Persuasive writing is meant to make you believe in something, and in this essay the reader finds themselves experiences the hardship Orwell has to over come that day. Orwell’s vivid language and details of what was going on that day, make the reader feel the pain and stress Orwell had to go through that day when ending the life of the elephant. The essay gives the reader reasons and explanations as to why the elephant should have lived and why Orwell did not want to shoot him. Throughout the essay there is constant reminder of how valuable and precious the life of the innocent elephant was and how torn Orwell was between his own conscious and the image he has to maintain as a British officer. Which makes his argument that he did not want to kill the elephant very convincing and believable.
What we Would Have Added
What we would have added to this essay was more detail about Orwell’s life after the shooting of the elephant and how it affected him. How long after did he decide to quit his job as a British officer? Did the people of Burma ever except him? How long did Orwell have a bad conscious over shooting the elephant?
Opposing arguments we could make to our weaknesses we found in the essay are that it does not matter what happened to after the shooting of the elephant. Orwell must have not wanted to go into detail since it was such a sad mistake he had made and regretted, he wanted to forget about what happened that day and move on.
We believed this essay was intended to anyone, generally aged teenage years and up so they can have a better understand of what is happening. This essay is not intended to any specific group of people, as long as you understand what is happening in the this essay it is a very interesting read for anyone.
The purpose of this essay was for Orwell to share this emotional life experience with everyone else. Shooting the elephant was sad to begin with, but when Orwell realized how much imperialism and the struggle to maintain his image in front of the people of Burma had taken control over him, the whole situation became so much more. Orwell wanted to share with everyone how the elephant represented his failure to stick up for what he believes in, and how imperialism and his occupation as an officer was something he disliked very strongly but had let overtake him. The format of this essay is a narrative. This was the most effective way to write this essay since it is also a personal essay, it is the author telling the reader a story of an experience that happened in his life.
We believe the communication does suit the essay because the type of essay suits the title. He shares the story of shooting the elephant and goes into depth about his feelings as well. He made the essay very personal and emotional, by adding in his own thoughts and considerations. The tone was reflective throughout and he kept the choice of diction appropriate for the text.
1. What narrative perspective is this essay written in?
a) 2nd person
b) 1st person
c) 3rd person
d) none of the above
2. It was Orwell’s intention to shoot the elephant.
True or False.
3. “It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant–it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of_______–and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided”
4. Irony and similes were two rhetoric devices used in the essay.
True or False.
5. Orwell compared the blood of the elephant oozing out to _____ ______.
a) A waterfall
b) A hose
c) Red velvet
d) Fruit punch
6. Orwell agreed with imperialism.
True or False
7. Orwell described the elephant as “grandmotherly.”
True or False.
8. Orwell was working in which town in Burma?
9. Orwell was a sub-divisional doctor in Burma.
True or False.
10. What type of essay was “Shooting an Elephant.”
b) compare and contrast
d) none of the above
The essay over all was emotional and was bound to get the reader’s attention. In the essay he states he was hated by the Burmese people. “All this was perplexing and upsetting.” These words generate to the essay and develop meaning. “He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open — I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat” This shows the choice of emotional words using “Painfully”. This shows that the elephant went through a lot of pain prior to his death.
By Sarah, Manroop, Alexia