Shooting an Elephant Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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What reasons does Orwell give for the shooting of the elephant in "Shooting an Elephant"?

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Orwell was a sub-divisional police officer of the British Empire in Burma when it was a colony under British rule. He was hated by the Burmese, who understandably resented his imperial presence. One day, he received a call about an escaped tame elephant ravaging a local bazaar; it had already destroyed stalls, a home, livestock, and a van. Even worse, the elephant had killed a man. Orwell notes, “As soon as I saw the dead man, I sent an orderly to a friend’s house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle.” This request grabbed the Burmese people’s rapt attention. When Orwell saw elephant peacefully eating in a paddy field, he approached it, and it seemed like “the whole population of the quarter” followed him as eager spectators to watch the shooting. He commented, “It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides, they wanted the meat.”

Orwell actually had not intended to shoot the animal, but carried the rifle in case he needed it for self-defense. He...

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quddoos | Student

Orwell shoots the elephant because the two thousand native people standing behind him expect him to. They want vengeance for the man it killed, the meat the carcass will provide, and the entertainment of watching the shooting. “The people expected it of me and I had got to do it” (7), he writes.

There is an implication that if he decided not to shoot the elephant, both he and the empire would suffer a loss of prestige, but the main concern in Orwell’s mind is the “long struggle not to be laughed at” (7). He is even afraid to “test” the animal’s mood by going closer for fear it might attack and kill him before he could shoot, thus giving the crowd a sight it would enjoy as much as the slaughter of the beast.

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Orwell says that he did not intend to shoot the elephant.  He only got the gun so that he could protect himself if need be.  When he actually saw the elephant, he became convinced that there was no point in shooting it.  But then, he found the main reason why he had to shoot it.  Here's how he puts it:

The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.

Because of this, he had to shoot the elephant.  He says he had to shoot it because that's what the natives expected him to do and he had to uphold the image of the white colonizers.  He had to appear decisive and resolute or else the natives won't respect the colonizers anymor

epollock | Student

dinegirl89,

Orwell shoots the elephant because the two thousand native people standing behind him expect him to. They want vengeance for the man it killed, the meat the carcass will provide, and the entertainment of watching the shooting. “The people expected it of me and I had got to do it” (7), he writes.

There is an implication that if he decided not to shoot the elephant, both he and the empire would suffer a loss of prestige, but the main concern in Orwell’s mind is the “long struggle not to be laughed at” (7). He is even afraid to “test” the animal’s mood by going closer for fear it might attack and kill him before he could shoot, thus giving the crowd a sight it would enjoy as much as the slaughter of the beast.