George Orwell is a well-known anti-imperialist writer. Most of his works are similar in that they display his discomfort and discontent over the British government’s tactics. The essay “Shooting an Elephant,” which was published in 1936, is no different from his earlier works. The story depicts various strong emotions and makes a reader experience the early twentieth century’s social scenario from a completely distinctive angle. The first thing that strikes the eye is the writer’s utter displeasure for the government he is serving as a police officer. Orwell writes, “I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing” (Bloom 12). In my opinion, the emotion of concealed hatred is the strongest of all because it splits an individual into two personalities.
Another emotion that is evident in Orwell’s writing is the metaphorical expression of oppressive acts conducted by the British. Here elephant‘s slow death portrays the repressive attitude of the government and condition of the nation during British rule. “I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British” (Bloom 12). Oppression is not just a social evil but also a strong negative emotion that destroys the nation’s perception of the rulers for centuries to come. The moral dilemma shown through the indecisiveness of the officer in killing the animal displays the emotions of loyalty to one’s own conscience and patriotism. The officer’s first duty is to obey the orders, but his confusion and reluctance show that his actual loyalties are to the land where he belongs and to the right path. “I was stuck between hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible” (Bloom 13). The emotion of harassment and fear that the elephant expresses when the officer tries to shoot actually depicts the emotional status of the nation. Elephant’s rage displays how the nation is yearning for freedom. Rage is yet another strong emotion, and the one used intelligently through the elephant to express the growing displeasure against the forced rule of Britain. The government’s decision of killing the animal depicts the extent of its domineering attitude against the people. This indicates that killing or eliminating any kind of resistance was the main policy implied by the British government to tame the Burmese. The inferiority and superiority conflict between Asians and Whites is an important element in the story. The writer shows this through the crowd’s mixed reviews of the justified killing of the elephant. In short, this essay is a blend of strong emotions of hatred, displeasure, fear, and oppression.
Bloom, Harold. George Orwell. Infobase Publishing, 2007. eBook.