Written by George Orwell
Essay by Arthur Diennet
In 1936, George Orwell published his short story ‘Shooting an elephant’ in an English magazine. Since then, it has been republished dozens of times and holds a place as a definitive anti-colonial piece of literature, in an era where the British Empire was at its peak and covered almost 1/3 of the Earth’s surface. George Orwell believed that “…imperialism was an evil thing...” and uses much themes, symbolism and irony to convey his strong anti-colonialist feelings.
Theme is an integral part of this story and is mostly presented through the narrator. One of the major themes of the story is conscience, in which many of the conflicts in the …show more content…
This is much like the Burmese people, who, even after the wars, continued hostilities, making minor jabs at the narrator (Britain) that slowly made anger and guilt well up in the his heart. The larger symbol is extended when the narrator “…could not stand it any longer and went away…”, unable to bear the elephant’s (Colonized civilization’s) agony and he finds out later that it did not die for another half hour and only after having its meat (resources) stripped from its bones by the Burmese. This is yet another symbol of the fact that, even after Colonialism ends, it is no use, as the colonized shall tear each other apart now that this new order has been established.
Orwell’s final expertly used technique is that of irony. This entire short story is laced with it, from the terrible treatment the narrator receives at the hands of the Burmese even though the narrator sympathizes and wishes to liberate them, to the fact that the narrator, being in an authoritative position, should hold power over the Burmese, yet, when the shooting occurred, it was the villagers of Moulmein who had power over him. The narrator feels terrible for what has happened to the Burmese and the torture they have been put through by the British, yet hates the Burmese for the torture they unleashed upon him on a