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What does imperialism mean in the essay "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell?

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jessica1988 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 19, 2013 at 7:50 PM via iOS

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What does imperialism mean in the essay "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 19, 2013 at 9:37 PM (Answer #1)

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"Shooting an Elephant," a story loosely based on George Orwell's personal experience as a colonial official in Burma (modern-day Myanmar), a colony in the British Empire. Burma was ruled by Great Britain, and as a representative of the British, the narrator of the story is viewed with hatred by the Burmese people. When a rogue elephant storms through the bazaar, the narrator is called upon to shoot it, which he does not want to do. The elephant, despite having accidently killed a man on his "rampage," is now calm and docile. But the narrator also does not want to appear weak in front of the people, who might then question his authority. Through this episode, Orwell is showing how imperialism corrupts people. It forces colonial subjects to look to people they hate for justice, and forces the imperial officers to commit morally repugnant acts. Above all, it shows that the imperial relationship, at its heart, is based on violence.

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