Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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How is the narrative entertaining? Discuss what the author does well in telling the story.

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The narrative of "Shooting an Elephant" is compelling and exciting. At the outset of the story, Orwell is riding around patrolling on a pony when an alarm is sounded and a mob forms, frightened by a rampaging elephant. At this moment, the action ramps up drastically, creating an adrenaline-infused rush of excitement as Orwell rides to confront the elephant and is overtaken by the crowd.

It's interesting to watch how Orwell is transformed in the essay, from an officer of the law and leader of the people to a slave of the mob. His firsthand experience of the depravity and flexibility of the human soul makes this account invigorating and terrifying at the same time. Orwell leaves his post and is immediately consumed by the crowd, foreshadowing his descent into their influence, when he had previously been above them in terms of power.

The narrative maintains its breakneck pace until the elephant falls dead in front of the mob, which is satisfied and pleased with Orwell for the shooting. At this moment, the narrative tumbles inward, falling deep into Orwell's own thoughts and psyche as he reflects on what he has just done and is overcome with guilt and shame. After speeding through a montage of events, the essay settles down and allows you to reflect on your own humanity and presuppositions in the moment, because up until the gunshot, the reader is engrossed in the actions of the mob and the immediacy of the situation.

Orwell explores the human experience well in this essay. He shows how susceptible we can be to others' influence and how quickly we can be transformed by the mob mentality into something we're not. Orwell regrets this moment immensely, and much of his later writing is influenced by that guilt. Perhaps what he does best in this essay is show how flawed and susceptible we are as humans.

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