How does "Shooting an Elephant" relate to imperialism?

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In this essay, Orwell uses shooting the elephant to illustrate the basic irrationality and evil of imperialism.

As the story opens, we learn that the narrator, a young imperial police officer in Burma, is hated by the native Burmese, as all the British imperialist forces are—and he knows it. However, when an elephant goes on a rampage, he is called on to handle the situation, in part because only the British are allowed to have guns. By the time he arrives at the scene, the elephant is completely calm and poses no threat. Yet, because a crowd of hostile, passive-aggressive Burmese are behind him, implicitly challenging him to act, the narrator shoots the elephant for no reason but to save face and look like he is handling the situation in a strong and aggressive manner.

As the narrator describes in some detail, the elephant dies slowly and in agony. Its owner loses his investment in the animal. The narrator feels disgusted with himself for letting pride overcome his ration and empathy and...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 752 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 27, 2020