Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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What is the purpose of the short story "Shooting an Elephant"?

The purpose of the short story "Shooting An Elephant" is to teach the reader about what life was really like for the Burmese under British occupation. As a result, the reader comes to understand why Orwell was "hated" by the Burmese.

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It could be argued that the purpose of “Shooting An Elephant” is to reveal how imperialism affects those who live in conquered countries. This story takes place in Moulmein, a town in Burma, which became a British colony in 1824. From the opening lines of the story, it is clear that the Burmese hate their role as a subjugated people. Just look, for example, at how they treat Europeans: they spit on women’s dresses and insult, jeer, and even trip up Orwell during a football match. Since they cannot riot against the British for fear of reprisal, they express their anti-imperialist sentiments in small ways.

Later in the story, the reader gets a sense of why the Burmese feel such anger and resentment towards the British:

The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos.

Orwell does not hold back. His description of life for these prisoners is vivid and...

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