In "Shooting an Elephant," does Orwell depict imperialism by using characters that can be related to people with different opinions?

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jlcannad eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm a little unsure how to answer this because of the way it is phrased, so I'm going to focus on the use of simple characters.  Orwell does use very simple characters, each seeming to represent an almost stereotypical position.  The old women who chase the children away from the dead man are the archtypical clucking grandmothers.  The Buddhist priests are not shown as individuals with hopes or goals, but rather as all being the same and having nothing better to do than "to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans."  The townspeople who follow the protagonist out to the field are not shown as fathers and mothers, shopkeepers and laborers: they are all "those yellow faces behind" who possess some sort of collective will.  This collective characterization is why enotes actually characterizes the crowd as though it were an individual character.

The protagonist clearly sees that imperialism is forcing his face to fit this "mask" of tyrant where he is forced to react to the natives instead of making his own choices.  However, the same is true of all the simple characters in the story... they are all nothing more than simple masks with no individual power.  They are all the prisoners or the crowd or the Europeans because that's all imperialism allows them to be.  Imperialism has reduced people to stereotypes of themselves, stereotypes which must act in certain ways to keep the system running.

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Shooting an Elephant

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