Posted: March 23rd, 2022
Critical analysis of the rhetorical strategies used in Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”
In his last days, George Orwell, author of the best-selling book, 1984, wrote an essay entitled “Shooting an Elephant”. The story is set in the 1920s, where Orwell was serving as a police officer in Burma, a country colonised by the British. The center of the plot revolves around an incident that took place in the town of Moulmein. An elephant freed himself from chains and stampedes through the little town because the elephant is in ‘must’, a state of frenzy brought on by sexual heat. As the elephant continues to terrorise the natives, Orwell is called upon to remedy the situation and brings along a gun to be prepared for any scenario that would take…show more content…
This concept sickens the author as it negatively affects the natives. It robs them of their independence, pride, freedom, and territory. It also reduces them to an inferior status in their own country. Occupiers are then forced into making inhumane decisions to assert their authority. Another theme that is notable in the essay is prejudice. Despite the fact that Orwell respects the natives, other Westerners view the Burmese and Indians with antipathy, and this point was made clear in the last few sentences of the essay: “the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie.” (Orwell,…show more content…
Starting out with the use of imagery, Orwell vividly describes the scene when he looked back and saw “the watchful yellow faces”, hungry for a show. This slowly overwhelms the protagonist; the once inferior natives now become a pressurizing crowd, pushing him to exterminate the elephant. In turn, the author comes to realize what the natives expect of him. As a ‘white man’, he has the responsibility of asserting his authority and taking action, even if it is unethical. Now, irony starts playing an important role. Even though Orwell is the superior white man with a “magical rifle”, his choice to not kill the elephant is slowly being pushed aside by the want of the staggering mob. He slowly becomes the “absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind”. Orwell concludes his paradox on imperialism by comparing himself to a sahib, a term of respect referred to a European. He feels that he has “become a sort of hollow, posing dummy” and that it is his “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”. Even though he wishes to not be the stereotypical British, he is somehow required to, forcing himself to grow fit to the mask (Orwell,
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