Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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What are the concrete detail and abstract details in "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell?

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” the principal concrete detail is the elephant itself. Although the elephant functions as a symbol of colonialism, it is also a flesh and blood elephant, the size and solidity of which is an important detail in the essay. Orwell says that somehow it seemed worse to kill a big animal than a small one and, though this may not be strictly logical, it is easy to see that an essay on “Shooting a Dog” would not come close to having the same impact. Other concrete details include the huge crowd that had assembled (Orwell says that it included at least 2,000 people) and the rifle Orwell uses to shoot the elephant.

Abstract details in the essay include Orwell’s frustration at the false position in which he was placed, not wanting to shoot the elephant but having to do so to avoid looking foolish and losing his authority. There are several other abstract concepts bound up with this frustration, including the idea of imperialism itself and Orwell’s own idea that this was an evil thing, to which he was opposed even while acting as its instrument. Another abstract detail is the psychological pressure the crowd exerts upon Orwell, which makes him feel like a puppet even though he is ostensibly in control of the situation.

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