Discuss Orwell's tone and attitude in the final paragraph of "Shooting an Elephant." 

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Orwell's tone in the last paragraph of "Shooting an Elephant," is wry and sardonic as he recounts different responses to the killing. The owner of the elephant is the only who comes near to grasping the significance of the act: he is infuriated, but as the narrator so coolly states, he has no power:

he was only an Indian and could do nothing

As the narrator also sardonically points out, he himself was in the "legal" right for shooting a supposedly out-of-control animal.

The narrator continues by saying the European reaction was "divided." All the European opinions, however, miss the point. The older men simply close ranks and support one of their own. The younger men, however, say it was too bad he had to kill the elephant because it was worth more than a "damn coolie" or Burmese. This shows how they are either pretending to a silly bravado (playing their role) or lacking in empathy for the people they rule. Finally, he himself decides he was "very glad" the "coolie" had been killed because the death spared him from any trouble he might have gotten into. He ends by wondering if anyone guesses that the only reason he had shot the elephant was to avoid looking like a fool. Finishing sardonically on the word "fool" causes that word to linger in the reader's mind, and emphasizes the paradox that he did something foolish merely to avoid appearing foolish because he was caught up in a corrupt system.

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Orwell's tone in the final paragraph seems jaded and resigned to the realities of empire. Two lines in the final paragraph call special attention to the racial inequalities in colonial Burma. Orwell says that his fellow British officers said that an elephant's life was worth more than a coolie (a native laborer,) and that it was a shame he was forced to kill it. He says himself that he was glad the coolie (that was trampled by the elephant) had died, because that meant he was justified in killing the elephant. He also points out that the owner of the dead beast was powerless to do anything about the shooting, since he is "only an Indian." Orwell also draws attention to the central theme of the story--he wonders, in all of the discussions that take place after the incident, if anyone involves realizes that he killed the elephant "solely to avoid looking a fool." In this story, Orwell demonstrates how the imperial relationship corrupts the colonizers, who are often forced to go against their conscience.

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