In "Shooting an Elephant," what is meant by the phrase "he wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it?"

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To maintain order in the Burmese colonies, British marshals had to fulfill a role of authority, sometimes approaching that of intimidation. When deemed necessary soldiers would "strut their stuff" before the native population, putting on a display of pomp and circumstance well beyond the necessity of the occasion. Orwell made derision of this false authority, the obligation to "save face" for the sake of the crown. In the essay "Shooting an Elephant," he admits giving in to the expectations of the crowd by shooting the elephant in question rather than respecting his better judgement. In such a way he became the kind of person he was expected to be rather than taking true control of a delicate situation. Metaphorically, his face (his true self) had conformed to fit the mask (his public image.)   

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Shooting an Elephant

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