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Explain the significance of the following statement from "Shooting an Elephant:"  "And...

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maria222 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted September 11, 2012 at 5:25 AM via web

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Explain the significance of the following statement from "Shooting an Elephant:"  "And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white's man's dominion in the East."

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 8, 2013 at 10:40 AM (Answer #1)

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The statement in the story is significant for a couple of reasons.  The first would be that the statement transpires at a significant moment.  The narrator is trapped between the elephant, the perceived need to kill it, as well as the villagers perception of himself.  He is at an existential moment.  This is a part of where the futility arises in that there is no transcendent force to save the narrator from having to make a critical choice whereby either option will be difficult to endure.  At the same time, the idea of a "hollowness" or "emptiness" is a part of this narrative.  The fact that the narrator does not want to shoot the elephant, but is compelled to do so because of fear of how others will perceive him is part of the "futility" of imperialism.  In the final analysis, the statement is significant because it shows that even though his position in the dynamic is one of supposed power, the narrator is not really free.  He is trapped by the perceptions of the villagers.  This becomes painful to endure because being a British imperialist, freedom to act would be one of the guarantees of such a position in this social dynamic.  Yet, the reality is that he is not free.  The reality is that he is as subjugated by the perception of the natives as much as the natives are physically subjugated by the political reality of imperialism.  It is here where the "white man's dominion" has ended up establishing its own dominion on the narrator.

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