Does the story tilt our sympathies for the narrator or/and for the Burmese?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that both sets of characters earn our sympathies.  One cannot help but feel bad for the Burmese.  They are colonized by the British and their voice is silenced by the imperialists.  They did not ask to be controlled.  They simply were subjugated.  Their anger and their reactions are a statement against imperialism more than anything else.  The narrator is also in a no- win situation and our sympathies lie with him.  He is a force caught up in a position of imperialist politics that he did not initiate and from which he does not directly benefit.  He is a tool in a larger configuration and like the Burmese, he lacks power over his own being.  Sympathies abound for both of figures.  Both figures are placed in situations where their own autonomy and chances for happiness are significantly reduced.

How about the elephant?  I have to say that the bulk of my sympathy lies for the elephant.  He is a "worker."  He has no real power.  His death is a slow and agonizing one.  The language that Orwell describes in his death is more of a human than anything else.  He is the object of the Burmese crowd's anger and the recipient of the narrator's need to assert authority and control.  The elephant experiences no sense of redemption or satisfaction.   He is caught in the middle of the political condition in both sides.  A true victim of contextual politics, the elephant did not choose any of this.  There is something horrifically sad about killing an animal as the way the elephant is depicted.  The silencing of voice and the manner in which it is done generates more of my sympathy than for anyone else.

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