What are the differences between the two observers, Orwell acting and Orwell looking back, in "Shooting an Elephant"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Well done for identifying the two central characters that we are presented with! In this essay, the narrative form that is used is first person retrospective narration, which means that we have an older, maturer and wiser central character looking back and describing something that happened to him or her in the past. Of course what makes this narrative form so interesting is the way in which the older protagonist often can comment on his or her earlier actions.

In this essay, therefore, we have the younger Orwell who gets caught up in the situation and is aware of the contradictions of his position but feels unable to step outside the expectations of role and race. The older Orwell, however, looks back with greater distance, perspective and maturity and displays a keener and shrewder awareness about the ironies of his situation. The younger Orwell feels pressurised and hassled, but the older Orwell is more detached and able to comment more freely, with the benefit of time, space and distance, on why he did what he did during that time.

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