Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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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.

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...

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