Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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Discuss in detail the significance of the elephant in the story "Shooting an Elephant."

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The narrator is in Burma as an officer of the British government, and the local Burmese do not meet him with kindness. They see him as less of an ordinary person and more of a long-reaching arm of British rule into their country. He grows frustrated with the way he is treated: the sneers, the insults, the ridicule.

The elephant that he is summoned to deal with has become agitated from captivity, much like the Burmese people. After breaking its chain and escaping, the elephant (whom the narrator repeatedly refers to as "he" rather than "it," drawing further connections to the Burmese people) has lashed out in violence, destroyed property, and seemingly killed a man.

The narrator doesn't want to kill the elephant; once he tracks him down, the elephant poses no threat to any one and simply stands peacefully eating. He says that "I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him." Yet he looks at the swelling crowd that gathers around him and realizes

The sole thought in my mind was...

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