What did Orwell mean by the following quote from "Shooting an Elephant"?    "it was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than i had before of the real nature of...

What did Orwell mean by the following quote from "Shooting an Elephant"?

 

 

"it was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than i had before of the real nature of imperialism-the real motives for which despotic governements act"

 

Expert Answers
troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This statement identifies the topic or main idea that Orwell will examine throughout the rest of the essay.  This topic is imperialism and he will find the true motives of the colonists.

The tiny incident is his situation of taking out the elephant.  With all of the Burmese behind him, he only ended up shooting the elephant so he wouldn't look like a fool.  He didn't really need to kill it.  It had calmed down and was merely eating when he finally found it in a field.  But with so many of the Burmese behind him, gathering in large groups, he felt obligated to take it down. 

This was how he felt about his position as an officer.  He didn't really believe in the British Empire and what they were doing in Burma and actually sided with the people there; however, they made his job very difficult because they had no idea how he felt.  To them, he was just another European who they could throw things at and ridicule. Being put in this position of shooting the elephant made him see the big picture of why he was there as an officer and how he truly felt about the oppressive British Empire.

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Shooting an Elephant

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