In "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, how is the language effective in showing emotion?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell uses language effectively to convey the harsh realities of British imperialism. In the second paragraph, for example, Orwell uses imagery to describe the conditions of the Burmese prisoners. By using words like "wretched," "stinking" and "scarred," Orwell creates powerful images of violence and imprisonment to portray his sense of injustice towards these captive men.

Similarly, when Orwell shoots the elephant, he uses language in a way that enables the reader to empathise with his moral dilemma. The elephant, for example, is portrayed as harmless and vulnerable:

He…climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping.

By employing language in this manner, Orwell transforms the elephant from a raging, murdering beast into a helpless creature. The reader thus sees the situation from Orwell's point of view: he never wanted to shoot the elephant because he knew that it would eventually calm down. He did it because imperialism dictated that he act with authority, and this is the message at the heart of the story.