What historical/ political developments might the author be prefiguring in paragraph 2 of "Shooting an Elephant"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In paragraph 2 of "Shooting an Elephant," the Anglo-Indian policeman for the British empire, George Orwell, perceives the British presence as corrupting to both the conquerors and the conquered. As such, imperialism is doomed, Orwell suggests. The oppression of the Burmese--"the wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lockups"--as well as the ridicule of the Burmese for the British as epitomized in the Buddhist priest's subtle mockery as suggested by Orwell's desire to "drive a bayonet" into him, and later when Orwell goes to shoot the rogue elephant, imply that the tyranny of imperialism has turned upon itself. This is underscored when Orwell later states, "...when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys."

Certainly, then, Orwell suggests that he hates his job doing "the dirty work of Empire at close quarters." He also writes of the resentment of the Buddhist priests who were formerly supported by the monarchy and now have no financial support, a resentment that causes the British imperialists to be on their guard. These negative factors contribute to the suggestion of the unsustainable quality of colonial rule by Britain in paragraph 2 because of its lack of direction and absurdity.

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Shooting an Elephant

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