What are the reasons why orwell does not want to kill the elephant?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character, the colonel policeman, Orwell, is called to the market after a working elephant escaped his handler and killed a man.  The man, a slave, was crushed by the rampaging elephant.  By the time he arrives on the scene, the elephant is calm and has wandered into an open area, away from the market.

The narrator does not want to kill the elephant because now he is calm and poses no threat.  He is a working elephant, very valuable to his master.  He does not want to kill the animal because it would represent the savage nature of the British imperialists who are the ruling authority in Burma. 

Finally, he does not want to kill the elephant because he actually does not want to give the crowd what they want from him.  He resents the taunts and insults that he hears from the crowd everyday.  Even though he understands their resentment towards him, he still feels offended by these people, although sworn to protect them.

The narrator has no real choice, if he wants to keep peace, he must shoot the elephant because that is what the crowd demands. 

They are really very savage towards the animal, while the narrator does not want to harm it.  He feels that shooting the elephant is symbolic of the English government's relationship with the Burmese people.  They, like the elephant, are to be controlled, if they disrupt, they must be stopped.

The colonial policeman feels uncomfortable with his role in Burma.  He hates shooting the majestic creature.

Read the study guide:
Shooting an Elephant

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