George to witness. This is why the theme

Orwell was a British writer known for his opposition to the British Empire. His
feeling about it is reflected in several of his writings, including Shooting an Elephant. In many ways, the
political motivation of Orwell’s writing is traced to his experiences in Burma
(Tyner, 2005). This story, like others of the authorship of Orwell, aims to
narrate the situation of the British colonial rule in Burma which he got to
witness. This is why the theme of Shooting
an Elephant is Orwell’s explicit attack against imperialism and its evils,
based on his personal experience when he worked in Burma under the command of
the British government (Santiago Suárez, 2004). Orwell’s position against
imperialism is even shown in his work from 1936, Shooting an Elephant, when the British police officer, says:
“… already it had made a decision of which the imperialism was something
bad …”.

            The story of Shooting an Elephant begins with a subdivision police officer
narrating what he had experienced over time at his work and his thoughts regarding
the oppression of the Burmans by the British. I was all for the Burmans and all
against their oppressors, the British (Orwell, 1936). However, as a police
officer without any formal education, he was stuck serving an empire he hated.
One day the vision, that he held for a while about the nature of imperialism,
would be clearer and better understood. It all started when he received a call
alerting him that an elephant was sweeping the bazaar. He instantly decided to
do obey the calling and see what he could do about it. When he arrived at the
poor neighborhood, where supposedly it was happening all of what the
sub-inspector of the police station had told him, the stories of the people did
not match and he came to think that everything was a farce. However, later he
would realize that it was real, and this happened when he got to see an Indian
crushed by the elephant.

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            Then, the order brought him a rifle and
the whole crowd had seen it and they were excited because he was going to shoot
the elephant. In spite of this, the officer had no intention of firing, but he
still walked with the rifle in a preventive manner and as a possible method of self-defense
if necessary. Eventually, that was not reflected in his actions and in a brief
moment, the elephant was shot by him. It was this way that after several shots,
and with a long and agonizing death, the elephant got to die in an hour and a

            The narrator had to watch for a
moment as the elephant was unable to die and he felt to experience a feeling
helplessness by not being able of ending its suffering nor capable of saving
him because it was too late to do so. It seemed terrible to see the great beast
lying there, helpless to move and yet powerful to die, and not even to be able
to kill him (Orwell, 1936). Just like the elephant, colonial identities are not
achieved or perfectly arranged (Tyner, 2005). Therefore, the possible
decolonization process could be agonizing, but in the end, it can make possible
to reach a state of ease. This is why for some commentators who study the life
of Orwell and his writings, the elephant symbolizes the agony of the British
Empire (Tyner, 2005).

            However, the events that occurred
with the elephant convey altogether another message about imperialism. Going
back to one of the first events, where the elephant crushes an Indian, one can
reach conclusions about the perspective in which Orwell saw imperialism. The
scene can be read as a graphic metaphor of the brutality of British
imperialism, with the elephant breaking the lives of the colonized (Tyner,
2005). When there is an oppressing agent his oppressed objective suffers the
major consequences of that relationship. Because of the social condition of the
oppressed, repentant inhuman treatment causes every breath to be a condemnation
of living life without true freedom. No matter what the oppressor then might
face later appears a threat that implies his future death, when still alive
there is the possibility that it causes harm. As a consequence of this, the
balance of suffering always inclines towards the oppressed, because in order to
do otherwise, a force or a counter-attacker agent is needed to go against the
oppressor, in the case of Orwell’s story, the officer with his weapon was the
counter-attacking tool.

            So, in order for that agent to be
prepared to put an end to imperialism, it requires a lot of strength and a
sequence of events that led him to have the courage to end colonial domination.
As previously mentioned, the emergence of this movement or, in the case of Shooting an Elephant, the person is
affected by the emotions required for the development of courage to go against
the oppressor and put an end to the oppressing system. The officer, even
knowing that imperialism was evil, could not find a way to get rid of
everything that prevented him from expressing his rejection of imperialism and
favoring the Burmans. For this reason, it was not until he was incited
indirectly by the pressure of the people to shoot the elephant, he could not
accumulate the value independently to do so.

            It is important to acknowledge that
one cannot go against an oppressing system without the moral support of other,
no matter if it is indirectly or expressed in a direct way. The audacity to do
so requires a lot of value, but when the sufficient strength is gathered to do
it the results can be transcendental because the threat of the oppressor, in
the case of Orwell’s essay the British Empire, will no longer be a problem. No
matter how big the evil, as imperialism is, it is always possible to face it.
It is not an option to otherwise because as it may sometimes appear incapable
of doing harm, like when the elephant seemed calm, the fury can be unleashed
and the real capacity of the great beast is shown. 


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