Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What does the author mean when he says the elephants "attack of 'must'" had worn off?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write10,884 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Must, as the narrator calls it, or musth, is a term that means a male elephant is experiencing a huge surge of the hormone testosterone throughout his body. This leads to aggressive behavior which can be dangerous to human beings.

In "Shooting an Elephant," when the narrator says the rampaging elephant's attack of must has worn off, he means that the elephant's testosterone levels have returned to normal. This indicates the elephant is calm again and no longer a threat to the community. It means there is no rational reason to kill the animal and every rational reason to allow such a valuable animal to live. Nevertheless, the narrator feels compelled to kill the elephant to save face in front of the Burmese—showing the waste, cruelty, and irrationality of imperialism.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bwestbrook eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write14 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Bull elephants sometimes go into must, a condition in which testosterone levels are very high, causing extremely aggressive behavior.  No one knows exactly why they do this, though it has been linked to mating. Urine taken from these animals in zoos showed high levels of ketone.  When an elephant is in must it can kill humans.