How does Orwell demonstrate that tyranny enslaves both the oppressed and the tyrants as well?"On Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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George Orwell's essay "On Shooting an Elephant" describes Orwell's compromising position in a job that he hates bitterly because he has come to the conclusion that imperialism is an evil in itself.  For, he feels stuck between his

hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.

Orwell writes that the incident of the elephant's ravaging a bazaar and inflicting violent acts, especially the killing of an Indian man.  While Orwell does not want to shoot the elephant, he knows that if the elephant charges him, he would be trampled and "reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill."  The Burmese crowd might also laugh:  "That would never do."  So, Orwell shoots the elephant "to avoid looking like a fool" before the Burmese people.  Thus, in his position of the imperialist, Orwell feels the tyranny of the oppressed, remembering the crowd of Burmese who earlier had laughed as a foul was allowed against him in a soccer match by a Burmese official. Now, again they watch in hopes of ridiculing him and issuing mocking laughter that it is intolerable to the notion of imperialism.

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