Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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What is Orwell's argument in the essay "Shooting an Elephant"?

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"Shooting an Elephant" describes an incident in George Orwell's early life, when he was working in Burma as a sub-divisional police officer--in other words, as a lower-ranking government official of the occupying white British government. Burma, which is modern-day Myanmar, is bordered by India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It was initially colonized by Britain in 1824, and following the Anglo-Burmese wars, was fully annexed in 1885. Thus, Burma became part of the British Empire in the East.

Orwell describes the incident with the elephant as revealing, although in a roundabout way:

And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd...

(The entire section contains 485 words.)

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