In "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, are the Burmese capable adults who can rule themselves or do they like having the British Empire take care of them, despite their calls for independence?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell's experience of working in Burma suggests that the native people did not like being ruled by the British. We see this through their reaction to Orwell as he carried out his professional duty as a sub-divisional police officer. Buddhist priests jeered at him, for example, and football players tripped him up on the field. This is, arguably, a result of the nature of Britain's rule in Burma. As Orwell comments, British rule was not consensual:

I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down…upon the will of prostrate peoples.

Moreover, this attitude of resentment among the Burmese suggests that they really did want to be independent but were afraid to break Britain's rules. We see this through Orwell's description of the Burmese prisoners in the "stinking cages of the lock-ups" in which prisoners were "bogged with bamboos."

It is, therefore, logical to suggest that the Burmese were more than capable of self-rule but were unable to achieve this because of the strength of British power. It was not until 1948, two decades after Orwell's service, that the British finally returned Burma to its native people. 

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Shooting an Elephant

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