Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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In the context of the essay, who is in control: The police officer or the crowd? How are people influenced by the power they have over others? How are people in power forced to maintain a reputation?...

In the context of the essay, who is in control: The police officer or the crowd? How are people influenced by the power they have over others? How are people in power forced to maintain a reputation? What is the cost to this?

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The central topic of Orwell's essay is the effect that imperialism has had on those such as himself, a British policeman in colonial Burma. His perspective is an unusually insightful one, and this accounts for the fact that "Shooting an Elephant" is especially widely read among his works. The most telling, and probably the most famous, line of the essay is,

When the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom he destroys.

The situation he describes shows how dysfunctional the dynamic is between the British and "the natives." Egged on by a huge crowd of Burmese people, Orwell is forced to shoot an elephant which, though it has gone on a...

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