In "Shooting an Elephant", what are your impressions of the officer, the crowd, and the elephant and how are these impressions created? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The officer is self-aware and has enough of a sense of morality to recognize the fundamental evils of colonialism. But he is also filled with a deep contempt for the colonial people. In short, he is an instrument of colonialism, and his personal choice to shoot the elephant (which he describes as an immoral act) is carried out reluctantly. He creates this impression through his own words. He says that "imperialism is an evil thing," and that he had seen the "dirty work of empire at close quarters." But he also calls the Burmese people "dirty little beasts." In short, he gives the impression that he has been corrupted by empire, and that he knows it. The crowd, on the other hand, is full of contempt for the officer and what he represents. They are also agitated by the horrific scene they have just witnessed (though the officer seems to think they are just interested in a bit of fun) and, as he says, "wanted the meat." This suggests that they are very poor, perhaps even desperately so. Even still, the most compelling thing about the crowd is the extent to which the officer feels bound to do what they expect of him. They expect him to be an instrument of violence, and so he must be, to avoid, he says, "looking a fool." As for the elephant, the impression the reader gets is that the poor beast is caught, in a way, in a situation created by the inhumanity of imperialism.

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Shooting an Elephant

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