In regards to "Shooting an Elephant," how could young Orwell's reaction to the elephant being shot be considered racist?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Orwell's purpose in writing "On Shooting an Elephant" is to expose the overbearing nature and negative consequences of the British Empire upon the "natives" under its control, some of his word choice, especially in today's politically correct society, is offensive.  The offensiveness or racial aspects of the essay stem mainly from Orwell's descriptions of the Burmese.  He calls them "evil-spirited little beasts," and mentions their  "sneering yellow faces."

Orwell's tone is also tinged with racial superiority.  He writes with confidence and does not seem particularly interested in understanding Burmese culture or the motives behind their actions toward him.  Rather, he portrays himself as a sympathetic character while remaining rather cold toward those who are in a more precarious position in the Empire's realm than he is, simply because they are not British by birth or white.

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Shooting an Elephant

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