What do you see as the narrative style in "Shooting an Elephant," and what is the purpose and tone?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Orwell's tone in "Shooting an Elephant" is both personal and reflective as he recounts the dramatic incident that clearly affected him and that he remembers so vividly. In his story, the reader comes to understand Orwell's conflicting feelings toward the Burmese people among whom he lives as an official of the colonial government. He felt sympathy for them, but he also hated being hated by them. At the time when he was forced by circumstances to destroy the elephant, senselessly, he was largely motivated by fear. He was outnumbered by the crowd and trapped by the role of authority he was expected to play. Orwell "does his duty" as the representative of the government, but as a man, he could not stomach the animal's terrible suffering as it dies. It troubled his conscience at the time, and it continued to trouble him when writing his narrative.

Through his narrative style and tone, Orwell puts a face on colonialism as it was practiced by the British in Burma. In "Shooting an Elephant," he makes a strong statement against it, presenting it as a system that demeaned and dehumanized both the oppressed and the oppressor.

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