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What does the thesis statement in Shooting an Elephant simply say?

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ecs08 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 5, 2007 at 10:15 PM via web

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What does the thesis statement in Shooting an Elephant simply say?

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 6, 2007 at 5:50 AM (Answer #1)

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A thesis statement is developed from a theme, a conflict, or other literary elements of a written work. A thesis statement is the general topic of an essay. You then use a specific piece of literature to write about that general topic. A theme is the author's message about life, people, or the human condition. A piece of literature can have more than one theme, even though it usually has a main theme.

The most obvious theme in Shooting an Elephant deals with the culture clash between the British and the Burmese, and the prejudice and lack of tolerance that results from this culture clash. The Burmese hate the British for trying to impose their rule on them. The British look down on the Burmese, feeling they are inferior. Now, you can write a thesis statement based on this theme. One suggestion is, "The clash of cultures can result in prejudice and intolerance in a society." You would then use specific examples from Shooting an Elephant to show how this is true.

If you go to the enotes link of Shooting an Elephant, you will find some more ideas for thesis statements. But remember, a thesis statement can be developed from the conflict(s), the setting, the irony, or any other literary element of a piece of literature.

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 25, 2007 at 1:31 AM (Answer #2)

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Because “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is an essay, it contains its own thesis, which is an argument about the nature of imperialism. This thesis does not appear in just one sentence of the essay, but various passages contain it, with the rest of the essay—the story of shooting the elephant—providing an example to “prove” its truth. The argument about imperialism that is central to “Shooting an Elephant” can be summarized something like this: Imperialism affects the oppressed as well as the oppressor. Because it is an immoral relationship of power, it compels the oppressor to act immorally to keep up appearances that he is right. The narrator realizes that the British Raj which he serves is “an unbreakable tyranny” yet despises the people he oppresses for allowing him to do so. On the one hand he is regarded as a wise ruler, but on the other he knows he is wrong in what he does but must behave in such a way to disquise this. As a result, he finds himself doing whatever he must do, which in this case is to kill the elephant, to “avoid looking [the] fool” that he knows he is for representing the powers of imperialism.

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 25, 2007 at 1:35 AM (Answer #3)

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Because “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is an essay, it contains its own thesis, which is an argument about the nature of imperialism. This thesis does not appear in just one sentence of the essay, but various passages contain it, with the rest of the essay—the story of shooting the elephant—providing an example to “prove” its truth. The argument about imperialism that is central to “Shooting an Elephant” can be summarized something like this: Imperialism affects the oppressed as well as the oppressor. Because it is an immoral relationship of power, it compels the oppressor to act immorally to keep up appearances that he is right. The narrator realizes that the British Raj which he serves is “an unbreakable tyranny” yet despises the people he oppresses for allowing him to do so. On the one hand he is regarded as a wise ruler, but on the other he knows he is wrong in what he does but must behave in such a way to disguise this. As a result, he finds himself doing whatever he must do, which in this case is to kill the elephant, to “avoid looking [the] fool” that he knows he is for representing the powers of imperialism.

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