Examine how Imperialism impacted Orwell's life on a personal level through the short story.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I had to edit down the original question.  In his essay entitled, "Why I Write," Orwell composes these thoughts regarding his time as a member of the Burmese police:

As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism.

From this and from the narrator's condition in the short story, I think that one can see how Orwell's experience with imperialism impacted his life.  If one can assert that the narrator and Orwell are similar to one another, the narrator is not a dogmatic colonist.  He understands that the reality of cultural stratification has locked both he and the Burmese into roles that deny them the chance to use their freedom.  For the narrator, he really has no freedom.  He must kill the elephant or be ridiculed.  For the Burmese, they have become so driven to see the British in the worst lights that they almost have an expectation that dehumanizing violence is a part of their nature.  Imperialism is shown to be a force that removes the humanity of both oppressor and the oppressed.  Neither one has a voice in being able to actively define their own sense of being in the world.  Authority carries with it nothing in terms of being able to actively create a sphere of freedom in the world as the narrator is literally trapped by the gaze of the other.  It becomes evident that the impact of Imperialism on Orwell's life was to galvanize him to fight and write against and social and political order that takes away constructive freedom from the individual.  It is here where he sees the impact of Imperialism on his life in a personalized manner. The world of the narrator is filled with a condition in which freedom is denied to both sides in the state of Imperialism, helping to fuel what Orwell would later call "some understanding of the nature of Imperialism."

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Shooting an Elephant

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