Examine the internal conflict that Orwell faces in paragraph two.  

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the second paragraph, Orwell faces internal conflict over the issue of imperialism. Specifically, he has realized that imperialism is an "evil thing," despite living and working in Burma, a British colony.

For Orwell, the real problem lies in the fact that he does not agree with British supremacy over the Burmese:" Theoretically—and secretly, of course—I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British."

Time and time again, he has seen evidence of British cruelty: Orwell presents a strong image of prisoners in cages, for example. But, no matter what he might think about the British treatment of the Burmese, he is forced to keep silent about it. Remember that he is a "young" and "ill-educated man:" he needs this job and cannot afford to make an enemy of his superiors. It is interesting to note that Orwell believes these feelings are a normal "by-product" of imperialism. In other words, he knows that other British officers feel this sense of guilt but, just like him, cannot voice it for fear of losing their position. Orwell realizes that the British Raj will not be brought down by words so he must continue until another opportunity comes along.

So, in this paragraph, the description of Orwell's conflict gives the reader a sense of the psychological burdens of imperialism, enabling the reader to understand an oppressive system from the perspective of the oppressors. 


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The internal conflict that Orwell faces in the essay is that he embodies a job that he hates.  His internal conflict is present in the fact that he hates what he does and what it represents:

All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. 

Orwell details his internal conflict as one in which he wishes the Empire to fail just as much, if not more, than the Burmese.  Yet, he needs a job and this is the job he has.  For Orwell, it is a self- hating internal conflict that requires him to don a uniform that embodies the very worst for him.  As he suggests, seeing "the dirty work of the Empire at close quarters," filled an intense self hatred within him.  His internal conflict is rooted in doing something he hates, but knowing that at this particular point in time, there is no escape for him. Orwell concludes that such internal conflict is a "normal by- product" for individuals in his position.  However, this does not alleviate the conflict he experiences in the exposition of the piece that sets the narrative in motion.

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Shooting an Elephant

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