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Compare and contrast the plight of native-born Burmans in "Shooting an Elephant" with...

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ronybhai | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 11, 2011 at 4:36 AM via web

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Compare and contrast the plight of native-born Burmans in "Shooting an Elephant" with the plight of American blacks in the same time period.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 11, 2011 at 9:33 PM (Answer #1)

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Clearly there are many parallels that we could draw between these two different groups, separated by vast stretches of land and sea. The principal way that these two groups can be related, however, is through their position in society. Both groups are clearly placed beneath another social group that has power over them, in the form of British colonial overseers in the case of the Burmese, and the whites in the case of the African Americans. As a result, both groups suffer a severe loss of power and prestige thanks to the supremacy of another social group over them.

However, if we believe Orwell's account of this snapshot of colonial life in Burma, at the same time, there appear to be massive differences. Clearly, the Burmese, in their oppression, had a sought of power over the British thanks to the myths surrounding colonialism, which meant that often officers such as Orwell had to do things that they didn't want to do and were against their better judgment:

And suddenly I realised that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.

No such power was evident in the position of African Americans during the same time period. They had no control over the whites, and any acts of opposition could be met with violence and lynchings. Thus this interesting document suggests that there are more differences than similarities between these two groups.

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