Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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Compare the description of the killing of the elephant to that of the killing of the Indian coolie in George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant."

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The Indian labourer in "Shooting an Elephant" appears to have been killed instantly, crushed into the earth by the animal, though Orwell tells us that a look of "unendurable agony" showed on the man's face. He adds that the man's arms are spread in a crucified position. Significantly, Orwell has not actually witnessed the killing of the labourer. Yet it is the first indication of the horror of the incident as it is unfolding.

The man's apparently quick killing forms a contrast with the prolonged process of the elephant's death—but perhaps only a superficial one. Because Orwell has aimed his initial shot the wrong way, the elephant does not die instantly. He's required to continue with shot after shot which, he tells us, seem to make no impression, and Orwell can't stand watching the suffering of the animal: he tells us he leaves the scene while the elephant is still alive, and only later does he find out that it took a half-hour before the beast finally expired.

The elephant's prolonged...

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