Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
Start Your Free Trial

The elephant's the key to the narrative persona's difficulty with his position in the Burmese society. How's it an important symbol in "Shooting an Elephant"?

Expert Answers info

gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write2,654 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

It is important for the many different things that it represents. At different times, the elephant represents the dying power of the British empire (look at how long it takes to die, and how the Burmese strip the body once it is dead), the size and nature of Kipling's duty (and especially the "white man's burden"), in the fact that the mahout, its proper ruler, has gone missing (when there is no local control, the empire must step in), the nature of experience in distant lands (look at how the stories about the elephant vary), and in the gap between what Kipling knows he should do as an individual (not kill the elephant) and his role as a representative as a civilization.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now