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Shooting an Elephant

by George Orwell

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What can you infer about the narrator from the first two paragraphs of "Shooting an Elephant"?

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In the first sentence of the short-story, Orwell mentions that he was hated by large numbers of people and says that his time as a British officer stationed in Lower Burma was "the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me."...

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Orwell's statement about his lack of importance indicates that he has relatively low-esteem and lacks confidence. Orwell then mentions how he was continually baited, ridiculed, and laughed at by the native Burmese citizens. Orwell also says that the insults and jeering got on his nerves, which indicates that he is under a lot of stress and has a rather sensitive disposition. Orwell is also portrayed as a vulnerable young man, who struggles to defend himself against the disparaging remarks from the Burmese citizens.

In the second paragraph, Orwell describes his anti-imperialist beliefs and favors the Burmese people while opposing Britain's colonial rule. Orwell also mentions that he bitterly hates his job as a British police officer and is filled with a sense of guilt after witnessing the oppressed, tortured Burmese prisoners. The narrator's views and concerns regarding European imperialism and the oppressed Burmese citizens reveal that he is a sympathetic, honest individual. He openly discloses his resentment towards Britain's colonial rule, which depicts him as a reliable, genuine person. The fact that he struggles to accept his position as a British police officer stationed in Lower Burma reveals that he is also a relatively confused, perplexed young man.

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From the first two paragraphs of "Shooting an Elephant," it is clear that Orwell hates his job as a colonial police officer because of the way locals treat him. Orwell appears to resent that the locals use "petty" and small-scale forms of harassment against him, like tripping him up during a football field, rather than openly attacking the imperialist system, as he comments, "No one had the guts to raise a riot."

It is also clear Orwell has a strong sense of social justice. This is made clear by his reaction to the treatment of some Burmese prisoners who are locked in cages and beaten by their British captors. While these observations fill him with a sense of shame, he cannot escape his resentment of the locals who treat him so badly:

All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.

That Orwell recognizes these feelings as a "normal by-product" of working in such an environment suggests he is aware of the moral implications of his role in Burma and that he carried it out reluctantly.

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