Orwell wrote this story predominantly in the past tense. However, in two instances, text is written in the present tense:
- ...a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes.
- Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.
These comments may appear to be cases where Orwell inserts his own thoughts into the story. But that is not what they are. Instead, these statements are the narrator's opinion today of events that happened in the past. They are called asides. Usually used in plays, asides are
speech, directed to the audience, that is not supposed to be heard by other actors on stage. An aside is usually used to let the audience know what a character is about to do or what he or she is thinking....Asides are important because they increase an audience's involvement in a play by giving them vital information pertaining what is happening, both inside of a character's mind and in the plot of the play.
The narrator is telling the story many years after the events happened. With these statements, he's interrupting his story to say what he thinks about a certain situation. In the first sentence, the narrator is telling us that his memory of what happened is not so fresh. In the second, he is giving his present thoughts on having seen the dead body in the past.
Orwell is thought by many to actually be the narrator of this story. He spent some time in his youth as an imperialist policeman in Burma and this story is often thought of as an autobiographical account to illustrate his experience and his feelings about imperialism. These are Orwell's thoughts and when the narrator comments about his thoughts and feelings there really is no separation.