What is the main idea of "Shooting An Elephant" by George Orwell? 

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In "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell advances an argument that imperialism exerts a coercive effect not just on its victims within the colonized world, but also on the colonizers themselves. This argument is advanced based on his own experience as a police officer working in the British Empire.

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In "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell advances an argument that imperialism exerts a coercive effect not just on its victims within the colonized world, but also on the colonizers themselves. This argument is advanced based on his own experience as a police officer working in the British Empire.

In this essay, Orwell recalls an incident in which an elephant went into a temporary bout of hyper-aggressive behavior. As the situation unfolded, an expectation built among the larger population that Orwell was going to kill the elephant, and a crowd began to follow him, expecting him to kill the elephant. While Orwell himself had no wish to shoot the elephant, in the end, this was of little importance. It was expected that he would shoot the elephant, and so he was compelled to act according to that expectation.

From here, Orwell's colonial thesis emerges: to act as an agent of colonialism entails the surrender of one's own agency in order to conform to the expectations created by the colonial experience itself.

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In the classic essay "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, an unnamed narrator, presumably Orwell himself, is a police officer in colonial Burma. The main idea of the essay is to express the author's opposition to imperialism. He says this outright early in the essay:

For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically—and secretly, of course—I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.

The narrator expresses his distaste for the British occupation of Burma by describing how helpless and guilt-ridden he feels as he attempts to carry out his duties. He is forced to obey his superiors and fulfill the duties of his post, and at the same time he is compelled to perform as a white man is expected to by the Burmese people.

Orwell uses the incident with the elephant as a metaphor for "the real nature of imperialism." The narrator tracks the elephant and finally finds him eating grass in a muddy paddy. He realizes that the right thing, since the elephant has calmed down, is to do nothing and wait until the handler arrives. However, the elephant has killed a man, and all around him is a crowd of Burmese that expects him to do something. He feels powerless to follow his conscience, knowing that he is expected to act out the role that his status demands. In the end, therefore, he shoots the elephant, but it dies in agony. If he had been able to follow the dictates of his conscience, the ugly scene could have been avoided. In the larger picture, in subjugating the Burmese, the British had compromised their own ability to behave morally.

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The main idea of "Shooting An Elephant" is that imperialism forces people to behave in a specific way. This is shown by the incident in which Orwell, in his capacity as a police officer, is asked to bring an elephant under control. It quickly becomes clear to Orwell that he must shoot the elephant, not because he wanted to harm the animal but because he realises that it was expected of him. He is a "sahib" and a member of the British Raj and, therefore, must maintain authority and control at all times. Likewise, the Burmese expect him to do it, as his description of the incident demonstrates:

 They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.

In other words, Orwell realises that imperialism is truly evil because it oppresses both the imperialist and the native population, forcing them to behave in a way which is neither natural nor ethical.

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