How does George Orwell's use of vivid details set the event up for the reader in "Shooting an Elephant"? 

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sjfisher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell uses vivid details to help readers visualize the shooting and mentally prepare for the climactic action of the event. As the rising action flows forward, readers are engrossed in the narrator's reflections on imperialism and the mob mentality of the Burmese people following him. An intense energy fills this rising action as they reach the elephant. Just before setting up for the shot, however, Orwell uses vivid details to set the event apart from that rising action. The narrator describes the setting, even noting that "the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step." This goes back to the old adage of "show, don't tell." Orwell doesn't write that the ground is muddy, but what type of mud and how one interacts with it. In the following line, the narrator says that against an angry elephant at close range, "I would have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller." That image vividly illustrates a picture in the readers' minds to bring them into the scene. 

When the narrator lies down and takes aim, he describes the crowd. This very energetic mob "grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh [. . .] breathed from innumerable throats." Here the crowd is outwardly slowing. The details in their demeanor of expectation bring the readers into similar mindsets. The readers, too, can become still and take those deep breaths before the climactic moment of the shooting. 

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Shooting an Elephant

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