Is "Shooting an Elephant" in a way about democracy?

1 Answer

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"Shooting an Elephant" is less about democracy than about a number of things that are very important to democracy and that democracy has to deal with. By that I mean, Orwell's classic essay is about power and responsibility, clashing cultures, and clash between   formal duty and individual conscience. The narrator is a representative of an empire, not a democracy really—but he comes from a culture with a democratic history. He's representing a clear racial hierarchy—but comes from a country that led the way in eliminating slavery, and one that was central to the ideals of freedom and democracy. In a way, the essay is profoundly anti-democratic, for as the essay begins " In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me." He's there despite the will of the people, which fuels democracies.