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Shooting an Elephant

by George Orwell

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Examine if Orwell reconciles social construction and individual freedom.

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I think that the question had to be altered a bit because Orwell does not present anything in a simplistic manner.  The question of "if" rather than "does" helps to amplify this.  I think that Orwell's essay shows how individual freedom is impacted by social construction.  Through the narrator, Orwell recognizes that there is an inability to act in the name of freedom without understanding social construction.  There is reconciliation, but this is not a comic or redemptive notion.  The narrator is impacted in his being a member of the colonizing class.  This impact results in him having to take action and shoot the elephant as a representation of the imperalist class.  His use of freedom is placed in a social context whereby he and his people have used violence to subjugate so many people, so it would only be natural for it to use it in putting down an animal.  The narrator realizes that his own freedom is placed in a social construction.  Action cannot be divorced from its social implications.  In this realization, Orwell can be said to have reconciled both, but it is done so in the recognition of individual pain.  The ability to freely take action in a such a politicized setting is impossible.  In this, Orwell makes clear that human action is always seen in the temporal political context.  This makes social construction and individual freedom almost wedded to one another, reconciled in a way where unhappiness seems to be the only absolute.

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