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George Orwell's 1936 essay "Shooting an Elephant" is about a British police officer, serving the Empire in occupied Burma, who has grown weary and bitter about the role of his nation in the less-developed regions the occupation of which constituted that empire. The narrator recognizes that he is, in the eyes of the Burmese people, synonymous with the British Empire and, as such, is a lightening rod for anti-British sentiments that run deep among the indigenous population. The narrator's description of his responsibilities as a colonial police officer and of the quandary in which he found himself when an elephant temporarily rampaged and killed a local serves as a microcosm for the far greater conflict that inevitably results when one nation invades and occupies another. As Orwell's essay progresses, the narrator is convinced that he must shoot the elephant, which is now passive and nonthreatening, in order to prove himself in the eyes of the public he has come to loathe while secretly cheering on as his attitude towards his own country continues to deteriorate. In Orwell's narrative, then, neither side is particularly meritorious, although his sympathies clearly lie with the victim and not with the oppressor.
When contemplating a thesis statement for "Shooting an Elephant," it is precisely the narrator's bitterness and observations regarding the effects of occupation on occupier as well as on occupied that should form the basis of such a statement. Illustrating this point is the following sentence from Orwell's essay that encapsulates the author's sentiments well:
"All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evilspirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible."
A logical thesis statement for "Shooting an Elephant," then, could be "George Orwell's essay is an indictment of the injustices of empire and a scathing comment on the nefarious way imperialism dehumanizes the conqueror as much as it does the conquered."
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