Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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What, according to the narrator in “Shooting an Elephant,” are some of the injuries of colonialism for colonized and colonizer? How are these injuries reflected in the movement of Indian nationalism after WWI?

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In this essay, the narrator does not identify himself as George Orwell, but the author served as a colonial functionary in Burma, so the narrator is usually considered to represent Orwell himself.

The complex relationships of domination and subordination are played out in the narrator’s dilemma. By serving as a policeman, Orwell develops a deep opposition to colonialism because of its negative effects on both colonizer and colonized. While he does not want to kill the elephant, he does understand that the animal poses a threat in certain ways.

This “danger” is more symbolic than physical, however. A rogue elephant cannot be allowed to roam around the countryside. The elephant thus resembles the Burmese people who oppose their colonial overlords.

In order to assert his personal authority, which also stands for British imperial rule, Orwell must engage in over-the-top violent acts. His excesses in shooting the animal even after he knows it is dead parallel the excessive force that the British often used to put down rebellions or any organized opposition.

After World War I, the British tried to consolidate their power in India; one incident of extreme violence is the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh or Amritsar massacre, when the British army troops fired on unarmed civilians and killed 400 people.

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