The short story, "Shooting An Elephant," is so named because the plot revolves around a working elephant that breaks free from its master and rampages through a market, killing a man, a slave.
The authorities are called, and a Colonial Policeman arrives to discover that the elephant has moved away from the market and is now in a field, quietly grazing. Because the crowd that observed the elephant's wild behavior demands that the animal be shot, the Colonial Policeman has no choice but to shoot the now calm working elephant.
The Colonial Policeman feels very uncomfortable with his job in Burma, he knows that the people resent him because he represents the British government who is ruling their country at this time. Even though he does not want to shoot the elephant, to satisfy the crowd and the keep a measure of respect with the people he shoots the elephant because the local culture demands its destruction.
"Shooting an Elephant" is an essay that Orwell wrote after spending time in Burma as an officer for the British government. This essay gives details of his experience there. One instance in particular was when he had to shoot an elephant. This elephant had caused grief to the area and had killed a man. As an officer, he was expected to take this animal down. However, the reasons behind him shooting it were not to protect others. The elephant had finally settled down and was just quietly eating in a field just off the road. He was doing no more harm, but Orwell felt compelled to shoot it because of the pressure he felt from the Burmans behind him--who were cheering him on. He
"often wondered whether any of the others grasped that [he] had done it solely to avoid looking a fool."