Describe the elephant from his escape until its death in George Orwell's essay, "Shooting an elephant".

Expert Answers
Michael Otis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Shooting an elephant", the master essayist of the twentieth century, George Orwell, maintains that a minor incident of shooting an elephant in colonial Burma symbolizes the evil and futility of British imperial rule. This truth comes clear to him one morning near the beginning of the rainy season when the narrator, a colonial police officer, learns that a domesticated elephant, maddened by estrus, has broken free of its mahout or master and is terrorizing the neighborhood. At the time the incident is reported to the policeman, the elephant has destroyed a hut, upended a garbage van, killed a cow, and satisfied its hunger in the fruit stalls of the local bazaar. Without weapons to protect themselves - a direct result of the disarmament policy of the British administration - the Burmese are powerless to prevent the elephant from roaming at will. The narrator arrives at the site of the last report of the rampaging elephant to find a commotion around a hut. There he finds the body of a Dravidian coolie, his body horribly mangled by the elephant. Armed with a true elephant gun, the narrator approaches the elephant now grazing peacefully in a nearby paddy field. Pressured by the unspoken expectation of a vast crowd of native onlookers, he fires his powerful weapon at what he surmised was the elephant's brain. Although he fires a total of three rounds into the beast, the offiicer is shocked to see that it still lives. That condition of a slow, agonizing death persists even after the officer exhausts all his ammunition. At last he leaves in disgust, later learning that it takes a half hour for the animal to die.

Read the study guide:
Shooting an Elephant

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question