I need to write a paragraph summarizing the reading of the "Shooting an Elephant."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, it is important to recognize that Orwell's piece is an essay and written to make a point. So, in your summary you will want to discuss Orwell's main point which is the faults inherent in imperialism.

Throughout his essay, Orwell weaves his thesis upon the idea that imperialism affects adversely both the oppressed and the oppressor. And, from the beginning, Orwell makes it clear that he detests imperialism himself: "I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressor, the British." Yet, he finds himself "stuck" between this hatred of the empire he serves and his antipathy for the "evil-spirited little beasts" who make his job difficult. It is just this conflict that Orwell's being called upon to investigate a rogue elephant exemplifies. 

One day a Burmese subinspector calls Orwell who works for the Imperial police to respond to an elephant who has been "ravaging a bazaar." As Orwell goes around a hut, he happens upon a man's dead body in the mud, having been trampled by the elephant: "He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side." When the crowd sees Orwell with a rifle, they begin shouting that he is going to shoot the elephant. But, Orwell has no intention of killing the elephant; he merely brought the rifle in case he needed to defend himself. But as the crowd presses upon him, Orwell has the sudden realization of the obligation forced upon him as the "leading actor of the piece," the imperialist.

For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him....when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.

Therefore, although his moral conscience makes him feel as though it would be murder to kill the elephant, he, nevertheless, shoots the beast in order to avoid looking foolish with the rifle. He is glad that the coolie had been killed because this fact gives him more justification for his shooting of which he is really ashamed.

Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The essay Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell is perhaps based on Orwell’s personal experience with British Imperialism in the East. The story is set in Moulmein, Burma where the English narrator, who is most likely Orwell himself, is presented with a task of shooting an elephant that had killed a local man. The Burmese crowd gets agitated by the dangerous elephant and wants the narrator to shoot it. But the narrator does not want to shoot the elephant because he realises that it is no longer dangerous and, so, it will be a brutal act to kill it. He wants to let go the animal. However, he is forced by the local crowd to shoot the elephant. He knows that he cannot escape shooting it, as he will be humiliated by the mob and tagged coward. While the mob and his fellow policemen felt that he made a good decision, he “wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.” But the shooting of elephant results in severing his disgust and inner struggle, as the elephant doesn’t die easily even after many shots. The elephant’s pain and suffering in its final moments makes the narrator even more uncomfortable.

Shooting an Elephant depicts a conflict between the colonisers and the colonised. The Burmese carried anti-British sentiments, and even though Orwell was a British, he was “all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British”. In fact, Orwell was against Imperialism.

"For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing".

Orwell carried the view that imperialism devastated both the oppressors and the oppressed, albeit in different ways. According to him, tyrants suffered along with the oppressed. He describes this through his personal experience as a British policeman in the colonised land.

“every white man’s life in the East was one long struggle not to be laughed at”.

Orwell shared his mental anguish and suffering, being a British policeman and doing a job he hated the most. He felt “when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys”

amysor | Student

In order to write a summary, you must first have a good understanding of the text. When reading, make sure to remember the passage's main points. Write a thesis about the text. Expand from that thesis, and write the main points of the text. Make sure you revise your work, and that the summary is accurate as well. To help your summary become even better, you should even include some symbolism that is important from the text.

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Shooting an Elephant

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