«Shooting an Elephant»Cover of very first anthology publicationAuthorGeorge OrwellCountryUnited KingdomGenre(s)Unknown whether fiction or non-fiction[1]Published inNew WritingPublication date1936

"Shooting an Elephant" is an essay by English writer George Orwell, first posted in the literary mag brand new Writing in late 1936 and broadcast by the BBC Residence Service on 12 October 1948.

The essay defines the experience of this English narrator, perhaps Orwell himself, contacted to shoot an aggressive elephant while working as an officer in Burma. Because the locals expect him doing the task, he does so against his better judgment, their anguish increased by the elephant's slow and painful death. The story is deemed a metaphor for British imperialism, as well as for Orwell's view that «when the white man turns tyrant it really is his or her own freedom which he kills.»[2]

Orwell spent some of his life in Burma capable akin to that the narrator, however the degree to which his account is autobiographical is disputed, with no conclusive evidence to show it to be reality or fiction.[3] After Orwell's death in 1950, the essay was republished repeatedly, including in Shooting an Elephant along with other Essays (1950), in the Whale alongside Essays (1957), and chosen Writings (1958).


White elephants have been venerated in Buddhist Burma for hundreds of years, similar to this one at an entrance to a temple

Britain conquered Burma over a length of 62 years (1823–1886), during which three Anglo-Burmese wars occurred, and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. It had been administered as a province of Asia until 1937, with regards to became a separate, self-governing colony, attaining its freedom on January 4, 1948. With a good curiosity about the lives associated with the working course, Orwell—born in India to a middle-class household, but brought up in Britain—held the post of assistant superintendent into the British Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922 to 1927.

"Moulmein had previously been filled with elephants" employed to haul logs inside timber businesses. «Ordinary tamed elephants were section of Burmese life for centuries,… the rare and revered white elephant, is known in Buddhist legend become a symbol of purity and energy.»[4] Once Orwell relocated to Moulmein, in 1926, «he ended up being most likely ambivalent concerning the colonial state that he had been part. The Kipling-inspired relationship of Raj had been worn thin by the daily realities of their job in which… he witnessed 'the dirty work of Empire at close quarters'.»[4]:223 Orwell writes just how he had been caught between their own resentment towards the Empire as well as the Burmese individuals resentment towards him. As a member for the ruling power, he could be cornered into doing what the «natives» expect of him: «He wears a mask, and their face grows to fit it.» "[4]:224


A passport photo of Orwell, taken during his amount of time in the Burmese police force.

In Moulmein, the narrator—Orwell, composing in the 1st person—is a police officer during a time period of intense anti-European belief. Although his intellectual sympathies lie using the Burmese, their official role makes him a symbol of oppressive imperial energy. As such, he is subjected to constant baiting and jeering by the area people.[2]

After getting a call regarding a typically tame elephant's rampage, the narrator, armed with a .44 caliber Winchester rifle and riding on a pony, goes to the city where in actuality the elephant happens to be seen. Entering one of the poorest quarters, he receives conflicting reports and contemplates leaving, thinking the event is a hoax. The narrator then views a village woman chasing away kids that are taking a look at the corpse of an Indian who the elephant has trampled and killed. He delivers an order to bring an elephant rifle and, accompanied by a group of roughly a few thousand people, minds toward the paddy field where the elephant has rested in its songs.

Although he will not want to destroy the elephant since this indicates calm, the narrator feels forced by the demand of this audience for the work to be completed. After inquiring as to the elephant's behavior and delaying for some time, he shoots the elephant several times, wounding it but struggling to destroy it. The narrator then will leave the beast, not able to maintain its presence since it continues to suffer. He later on learns it was stripped, almost toward bone, within hours. Their elderly colleagues concur that killing the elephant was the best thing to complete, however the younger ones think that it was worth more than the Indian it killed. The narrator then wonders should they will ever realize that he achieved it «solely in order to avoid searching a fool.»[2]



An anti-imperialist journalist, Orwell encourages the theory that, through imperialism, both conqueror and conquered are destroyed.[5] Orwell demonstrably states his displeasure with colonial Britain: «I'd currently composed my mind that imperialism was an evil thing… I became all for the Burmese and all sorts of against their oppressors, the British.»[2] The narrator perceives that the conqueror just isn't responsible, however it is rather the will regarding the people who governs their actions. As ruler, he notes that it's his duty to look resolute, together with his word being final.

We perceived inside minute that whenever the white man turns tyrant it really is his or her own freedom that he destroys. He becomes sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. Because of it is the condition of their rule he shall spend his life in wanting to wow the «natives,» therefore atlanta divorce attorneys crisis he's got surely got to do just what the «natives» expect of him. He wears a mask, and their face grows to suit it. I'd surely got to shoot the elephant. I'd committed myself to doing it once I sent for the rifle. A sahib has to act like a sahib; he's got reached appear resolute, to know his or her own head and do definite things. Ahead all this way, rifle at your fingertips, with two thousand individuals marching inside my heels, and to trail feebly away, having done absolutely nothing — no, which was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me personally. And my life time, every white man's life in East, was one long challenge not to ever be laughed at.[2]

Although it just isn't the narrator's wish to shoot the elephant, and although he holds a gun far beyond the technological capabilities associated with natives, their might just isn't his own and, for their expectation, he realises he must shoot the elephant; «I happened to be only a ridiculous puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellowish faces behind.» Reflectively, the narrator realises that being forced to impose strict guidelines also to shoot the elephant—he states his emotions against the act, but submits after comprehending he «had reached shoot the elephant»—illustrates an inherent dilemma of hegemony: «when the white guy turns tyrant it's his or her own freedom he kills.»[2][6] By enforcing the strict British guideline, he could be forfeiting his freedom while simultaneously oppressing the Burmese.[1]

Conqueror and conquered

The British Empire at its height, 1921

The narrator's situation throughout the essay is certainly one of small possibility or prominence. He reviews how, despite the fact that he could be of this ruling class, he discovers himself either mostly ignored by the Burmese people or hated. He remarks in the 1st sentence, «I happened to be hated by many people—the only time in my life that i've been crucial sufficient for this to happen in my experience.» Just with the expectation of a killing do the locals find him «momentarily worth viewing.» He defines how, as a police officer, he had been frequently a target for mockery from locals, because had been any European who supplied an easy target.

As opposed to their description regarding the natives as «little beasts», the narrator labels the elephant as a «great beast», suggesting he holds it in higher esteem compared to locals. This is significantly paradoxical, but whilst the narrator's very own task is demeaning and forces him to see «the dirty work of the Empire at close quarters». The narrator singles away «Buddhist priests» to be «the worst of all» and commentary on what however happily «drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts».

Having killed the elephant, the narrator considers just how he was happy it killed the "coolie" as that gave him full appropriate backing. The essay completes with him wondering if they will understand their motive for having killed the elephant as he merely wanted to salvage their pride.[7]


The narrator's conscience plagues him greatly as he discovers himself caught between your «hatred associated with the kingdom [he] served» and their «rage against the evil-spirited small beasts who attempted to make [his] work impossible.»[7] He claims that he is «all for the Burmese and all up against the British» and continues on to state that «feelings like they are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, when you can catch him off responsibility.» This creates a sense of empathy from the imperialists for the natives, but as they treat their conquerors badly, they begin to feel less guilty and thus treat them badly once again.[8]

Movie adaptation

In 2015, "Shooting an Elephant" ended up being adapted into a quick film by director Juan Pablo Rothie and Academy Award nominated journalist Alec Sokolow. The film was shot totally on location in Nepal featuring Barry Sloane as Eric Blair.[9]

Reality or fiction

The British Club building in Kathar, pictured in 2006 (only the first flooring existed whenever Orwell was here).

The degree to which the story is fiction was disputed. In his biography of Orwell, George Orwell: A Life, Bernard Crick cast question in the idea that Orwell himself really shot an elephant. No independent account of Orwell's actions happens to be found and there was no formal record associated with the event, that was uncommon thinking about the destruction of valuable home.

Peter Davison, the editor of Orwell's Complete Functions, includes a meeting with George Stuart, a contemporary of Orwell in Burma, who said that Orwell was used in Kathar as punishment for shooting an elephant. «An elephant ended up being considered a very important asset to virtually any timber company...and Orwell might have been severely reprimanded for such unnecessary slaughter. It was not long after the incident that he ended up being transported from Moulmein to a quiet post in Upper Burma called Katha.»[4]:224–225 Davison also incorporates inside complete works a news product through the Rangoon Gazette, March 22, 1926 which describes a Major E. C. Kenny shooting an elephant in comparable circumstances. When one biographer questioned Orwell's spouse, Sonia Brownell, she responded, «Of program he shot a fucking a [sic] elephant. He said he did. Why do you constantly doubt their term!»[4]:225

See also

  • Burmese Days
  • Chunee
  • George Orwell bibliography
  • Musth
  • Such, Such had been the Joys


  1. ^ a b Runciman, David. Governmental Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond. Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 182–183.
  2. ^ a b c d age f Orwell, George. «Shooting an Elephant», The Literature system, accessed April 17, 2011.
  3. ^ George Orwell: A Life
  4. ^ a b c d age Larkin, Emma (2005). Finding George Orwell in Burma (very first American ed.). Nyc: The Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-052-1.
  5. ^ «Elements of Fiction and Total impact in Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell (2004)». Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  6. ^ «Orwell nevertheless matters: Shooting an Elephant». rogalinski.com.pl – Journalist web log. July 22, 2011. Archived from the original on 19, 2012. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  7. ^ a b «Staloysius: Shooting an Elephant analysis». Archived from original on 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  8. ^ «Oppapers: Shooting an Elephant analysis». Retrieved 2011-10-10.
  9. ^ «Shooting an Elephant». IMDb. September 9, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2015.

Further reading

  • Shooting an Elephant
  • Shooting an Elephant Overview and Analysis
  • «Audio Version of Shooting an Elephant» sound form of «Shooting an Elephant» read by Patrick E. McLean
  • Orwell, George (1968) [1958]. Selected Writings. Heinemann Educational Books. ISBN 0-435-13675-5.
  • Orwell, George (1969) [1957]. In the Whale along with other essays. ISBN 0-14-001185-4.

External links

  • Shooting an Elephant alongside essays at Faded webpage (Canada)
  • v
  • t
  • e
George OrwellBibliographyNovels
  • Burmese times (1934)
  • A Clergyman's Daughter (1935)
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
  • Coming Up for Air (1939)
  • Animal Farm (1945)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
  • Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
  • The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
  • Homage to Catalonia (1938)
  • "A Hanging" (1931)
  • "The Spike" (1931)
  • "Bookshop Memories" (1936)
  • "Shooting an Elephant" (1936)
  • "Spilling the Spanish Beans" (1937)
  • "Boys' Weeklies" (1940)
  • "within the Whale" (1940)
  • "My nation Right or Left" (1940)
  • "England Your England" (1941)
  • "The Lion plus the Unicorn" (1941)
  • "The Art of Donald McGill" (1940)
  • "Poetry as well as the Microphone" (1943)
  • "Raffles and Miss Blandish" (1944)
  • "Good Bad Books" (1945)
  • "Notes on Nationalism" (1945)
  • "Books v. Cigarettes" (1946)
  • "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" (1946)
  • "Decline associated with the English Murder" (1946)
  • "A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray" (1946)
  • "the way the Poor Die" (1946)
  • "The Moon Under Water" (1946)
  • "A sweet cup Tea" (1946)
  • "Pleasure Spots" (1946)
  • "Politics additionally the English Language" (1946)
  • "The Politics of Starvation" (1946)
  • "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels" (1946)
  • "The Prevention of Literature" (1946)
  • "Riding Down from Bangor" (1946)
  • "Second ideas on James Burnham" (1946)
  • "Some ideas on the normal Toad" (1946)
  • "Why we Write" (1946)
  • "Lear, Tolstoy while the Fool" (1947)
  • "The English People" (1947)
  • "Such, Such Were the Joys" (1952)
  • "As I Please" (1943–1947)
  • "London Letters" (1941–1946)
  • Betrayal of the Left (1941)
  • Inside the Whale alongside Essays (1940)
  • Critical Essays (1946)
  • Orwellian
  • Searchlight Books
  • Secker and Warburg
  • Victor Gollancz Ltd
  • Eileen O'Shaughnessy
  • Sonia Orwell
  • Orwell's list (1949)
  • Eric & Us
  • Why Orwell Matters
  • Orwell Award
  • Orwell Prize
  • Statue
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