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Pressure in George Orwell’s “Shooting the Elephant”

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Cruelty from one party spreads it to others where there are no alternatives left. Such was the case demonstrated in George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant,” where the main topic of discussion is the author’s inner conflict of serving the British Empire, which he despised with all of his heart. The incident described in the story is an outstanding illustration of social pressure where the lack of conscience from the Burmese side and imperial imagery of superiority forced Orwell to act as he thought he should even if it meant going against his own beliefs and values. In the given case, Burmese cruelty manifested in the fact that they lacked any sort of compassion and saw the scene as entertainment and food source. British cruelty is expressed in enforced imagery of White man, who acts like a pretentious puppet even though he is despotic to others. Orwell’s cruelty is represented as an act of killing an elephant despite knowing that it was unnecessary. Therefore, imperialism’s tyrannical nature normalizes the evil actions of its colonies, where its representatives need to adhere to this standard.

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It is important to note that although Burmese did not shoot an elephant, their cruel attitude towards the situation was one of the primary contributors to shifting Orwell’s decision to kill the animal. The author recalls that the crowd of Burmese people was excited as one would be for a person to perform a magic trick (Orwell 1257). Local people’s perception of the killing of the majestic creature as a source of entertainment heavily influenced Orwell’s decision-making process. It is safe to say that even the slightest concern and compassion of the Burmese crowd would have changed the overall outcome. Although it is also critical to note that it was Orwell who pulled the trigger and not the crowd, which means that they cannot be held responsible for the death of an elephant.

The British Empire was a highly despotic and tyrannical regime where colonies were only used as a resource. The author states that he despises the nation he serves and protects, and he is stuck between the hatreds of the Empire and local people (Orwell 1254). In the case of shooting an elephant, there was no explicit cruelty regarding the case from the British Empire side. However, its influence is big and subtle, because the nation’s imposed imagery of a White man’s superiority was at the core of the incident. Its massive influence of cruelty was manifested in the fact that the British Empire’s despotic approach towards its colonies normalized tyranny. The overall outcome is that both people serving the Empire and colonies of its imperial regime were suffering from its influence.

The most explicit form of cruelty comes from the author’s action of shooting an elephant. It is important to understand that Orwell himself admits that he had no desire to kill the elephant, and he perfectly knew that such action was unnecessary (Orwell 1257). However, the imposed imagery of a White man that both the British Empire and local people wanted to see primarily contributed to the overall outcome. Nonetheless, Orwell was not actively forced to pull the trigger, since the given decision is solely on him alone. He had a choice of walking away or waiting for a mahout, and he fell into a trap of adhering to the social pressure from the crowd. Therefore, the main source of cruelty in the story is Orwell himself.

Work Cited

Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant.” Web.

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