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What is George Orwell's view of Imperalism in Burma as portrayed in "Shooting an...

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melendeza | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 13, 2010 at 2:11 PM via web

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What is George Orwell's view of Imperalism in Burma as portrayed in "Shooting an Elephant"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 13, 2010 at 7:01 PM (Answer #1)

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In his excellent essay "Shooting an Elephant" George Orwell gives his own impression on "Empire" and imperialism based on first-hand experience. As a police officer serving in Burma during the time of its occupation, not only did he symbolise British rule but he became its agent. His whole experience of imperialism is condensed to one defining moment for Orwell - when he is forced to shoot an elephant against his wishes:

The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. 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 man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd - seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.

This powerful quote displays how imperialism is depicted in this essay. Orwell, as the representative of British power, has come to embody the myth of the all-powerful Empire and now is trapped in this role. Colonialism therefore is shown as something that is wrong both in its impact on the "colonised" but equally wrong in its impact on the "colonisers," who are reduced into becoming little more than "hollow, posing dummies" whose whole existence and goal in life is "not to be laughed at."

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