Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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What is the meaning of "Shooting an Elephant" by Geroge Orwell?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the short story "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell examines the true nature of colonialism and its negative effects on the oppressors by illustrating the paradoxical emotions of a British police officer stationed in Lower Burma. As a colonial authority figure, the narrator struggles on a daily basis to embrace his role as an oppressor while simultaneously "theoretically" supporting the plight of the disenfranchised Burmese citizens. Orwell illustrates the paradoxical relationship between the narrator's hatred and sympathy towards the Burmese citizens. The British police officer realizes that he must appear authoritative and fears being ridiculed by the native citizens, which is why he reluctantly shoots the elephant. Through the unique perspective of the perplexed British officer, Orwell illustrates the complex emotions and difficult decisions colonial authority figures must deal with on a daily basis. Orwell's short story critiques colonialism and examines the paradoxical emotions...

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