In "Shooting an Elephant", what connection does Orwell assume to exist between being important and being hated by large number of people?

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cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In the first line of "Shooting an Elephant", Orwell answers this question.  The line reads, "In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me."  Orwell makes the assumption that when you are important, you will be hated by the people who are under you.This idea plays out in the story as the narrator struggles between his occupation as an English imperial police officer in Burma and his desire to be accepted and respected by the people he is supposed to control.  The narrator tries to mold the two ideas (being important and being liked) during the incident where he shoots the elephant.  As the authority figure, Orwell, takes his position in the scene, defending the masses from 'danger', hoping that this will appease them - but the masses simply use peer pressure to force Orwell into shooting the elephant so they can have the meat.  By giving into the desires of the masses, Orwell becomes their pawn and loses even more of their respect.  The conclusion of the story acknowledges once again that the narrator position as an important figure in the imperialistic setting will always insure that he is hated by many.


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