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How would you describe George Orwell's feelings about killing the elephant?

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user7180176 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 17, 2013 at 5:57 PM via web

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How would you describe George Orwell's feelings about killing the elephant?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:09 PM (Answer #1)

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Orwell flatly does not want to shoot the elephant, which, after rampaging through the bazaar and accidentally killing a man, has calmed down. He is forced to by the expectations of the crowd, before whom he can never appear weak. This is really the point of the story, that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is fundamentally corrupt. Orwell sympathizes with the Burmese people, but they hate him, because they see him as little more than an instrument of empire, which they associate with violence and oppression (what Orwell calls the "dirty work" of empire.) Yet they also expect him, as a dispenser of legitimate violence, to take vengeance on the elephant by killing it. He really has no choice. The situation calls for him to behave with cruelty, because that is the only way he can fulfill the expectations of the Burmese townspeople, and maintain sime sense of credibility in their eyes. On the other hand, Orwell is glad, he says, that the elephant had killed a man, because it put him legally in the right by shooting the beast. The incident puts Orwell in a predicament, one that is unique perhaps to colonialism, and one that could only be resolved by cruelty.

 

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