Orwell treats the killing of an animal like ceremony. Where in his description does he reach the moment of truth?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the seventh paragraph, the narrator reflects:

“The people expected it of me and I had got to do it . . . .And it was at this moment …that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, …seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. … He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant.” 

What I delete is also very important, but restrictions of space require it. In this passage the narrator knows what he is about to do is wrong yet knows too the constructs of imperialism—that he must act as if he is in control of all situations, that he must act with power to impress and cower the crowd—compels him to do this deed anyway. Imperialism corrupts the person in power as well as the ruled, for the people want to see something beautiful and enormous destroyed as a vicarious way to experience the destruction of the English rule over their lives.  The elephant represents English power.

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Shooting an Elephant

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