What are the main conflicts in "Shooting an Elephant"?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The main conflicts in "Shooting An Elephant" revolve around a colonial policeman in British governed Burma.  He has a great deal of difficulty with the people he must protect.  He believes that they harbor a resentment and a distinct prejudice towards him.

This resentment is built around the fact that the British treat their colonized subjects as inferior, a fact that disturbs the policeman greatly.

One of the conflicts arises from prejudice and tolerance

"The colonial policeman has a duty towards the job, towards the empire, and this in turn requires treating the locals as inferiors."

Which leads to understanding the conflict of culture clash between the British rulers and the native people.

"The first is the ethical difference setting the narrator, as a representative of the West, apart from the native Burmese, who belong to the local village-culture and live in a pre-industrial world from which the West itself has long since emerged."

The narrator has a conflict of conscience.

"The narrator's moral conscience appears in the moment when the corpse of the Burmese crushed by the elephant comes to his attention; the narrator says that the man lay sprawled in a crucified posture,"

The last conflict comes from the action of order and disorder.  The elephant escaping is a sign of disorder, the policeman is a representative of order. 

"which is why Orwell’s narrator cannot avoid the unpleasant duty of shooting the elephant."


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