Shooting an Elephant Essay

In George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”, Orwell is presented with a task that causes him a great deal of stress as he battles with his internal conflict throughout the story. Orwell has mixed feelings after he kills the elephant. He feels wrong for killing the elephant because he feels that there could have been a more peaceful solution and killing it will bring more harm than good. He also feels that he killed it just because of his own pride. Although killing the elephant may seem wrong to Orwell, it is definately necessary to prevent further harm.

Orwell has a number of reasons that justify killing the elephant. He has to shoot the elephant because the elephant is a danger to the villagers, he is an authority figure, and for his own safety. First, Orwell hesitates several times before he takes aim at the elephant. It was never his will to kill the elephant. Orwell states, “ 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. ” Also when he saw the elephant his first reaction was that it should not be shot.

Orwell states, “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. ” (Orwell, 186) He states that the elephant is a very expensive animal and that its work is very important to the Burmese population and the family that owns it. Orwell watches the elephant and wants yet another reason to pull the trigger. He makes sure it does not turn savage and even states that it looked no more dangerous than a cow. The main reason Orwell regrets shooting the elephant is because of his own pride.

He feels that he allowed the crowd to control his actions and he shot the elephant to show his authority and to gain respect. “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, 186) this shows that Orwell was only shooting the elephant to impress the natives. He states that the crowd would laugh at him if he tried to walk away. Orwell committed himself to killing the elephant when he sent for the rifle whether he realized it or not.

He also states that a white man must not be afraid or show fear in front of natives. Even after killing the elephant Orwell was uneasy and could not stand to be close to the elephant any longer. “ I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool” (Orwell, 188) This shows that even though Orwell had sufficient reasons for shooting the elephant he only did it because he did not want to look like a fool. First, a good reason that justifies shooting the elephant is the danger it poses to the villagers and their way of life.

When the elephant rampages through the village it inflicts a large amount of damage. ” It had already destroyed somebody’s bamboo hut, killed a cow, and raided the fruit stalls and devoured the stock: also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it. ” (Orwell 25) This shows how dangerous and destructive the animal truly was. The damage inflicted is far worse in this setting because of the poverty and lifestyle. The elephant does a lot of damage that can not be seen.

When the elephant destroys the fruit stalls, devours the stock, and kills the cow it affects the villages economy and the income of the families trying to make a living. Also all of the buildings that were destroyed have to be rebuilt. The families hut was destroyed and a van was destroyed. Apart from all of the damage the elephant inflicts on the village’s huts and other properties it also takes the life of one of the villagers. When the elephant rampages through the village one of the villagers can not get out of the way and is crushed under the force of the elephants foot.

The elephant did not simply run through, but had intent to crush the man. Orwell states, “the people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. ” (Orwell 185) Just seeing the man caused Orwell to send for a rifle. The only solution is to kill the elephant before any more destruction or deaths occur. Second, Orwell is a dominant authority figure. It is his job to maintain order and keep the peace.

The villagers did not possess firearms and as an authority it is Orwell’s duty to restore order and to do this the elephant had to be killed. ” The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. ” (Orwell, 186) This shows the tremendous amount of pressure Orwell was under. To please the people the elephant has to be killed. Third, Orwell has to kill the elephant because his own safety is threatened. Orwell is hated by a large population because he was a British police officer.

He refers to them as men with sneering yellow faces which shows how they mistreat him. “The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousand of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans. ” (Orwell, 183) This is to show that even the priests had no positive feelings or reactions to the Europeans and Orwell. He is followed closely by thousands of villagers who are all waiting him to do their will. Even though he is the higher authority what power did he have over a thousand villagers.

He is greatly outnumbered and can not risk an uprising. “And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the east. ” (Orwell, 186) This shows that white men in the east must spend their whole lives to gain acceptance in the culture which they are living. In conclusion, Orwell is presented with a task that causes him great internal conflict. He has mixed feelings and can not decide whether or not to shoot the elephant.

He feels wrong for killing the elephant because he feels that there could have been a more peaceful solution and killing it will bring more harm than good. He also feels that he killed it just because of his own pride. Although killing the elephant may seem wrong to Orwell, it was necessary to prevent further harm. Orwell has a number of reasons that justify killing the elephant. He has to shoot the elephant because the elephant is a danger to the villagers, he is an authority figure, and for his own safety. Orwell was right for shooting the elephant.