What is the tone used in the essay, "Shooting an Elephant"?

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blacksheepunite's profile pic

blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The tone Orwell's narrative adopts toward his readers is friendly, revealing, and informal. This approach draws the reader in. We trust his voice because he shares intimate details of his experience: he is hated, he is conflicted.

The tone is particularly effective because this approach allows the narrator to reveal glimpses of his personality that we might not otherwise get to see. For instance, when he speaks of the conflict he feels, his voice is the voice of a worker trying to do the right thing in an impossible (from his perspective) situation:"I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. Later, the narrator reveals his racism and alienation when he refers to the people watching him as a "sea of yellow faces.

Because he is so honest about his difficulties, we can follow him and share in his experience. We may never have had to shoot an elephant, but many of us have performed an act we knew in our heart to be wrong
because we felt forced to wear a particular mask or because we wanted to avoid humiliation.His tone allows us to see ourselves in him.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Tone is the author's attitude toward the subject he is writing about. Critics have debated whether Orwell is apologizing for or condemning imperialism. Either way, Orwell is against imperialism, when a more powerful country governs and controls a less powerful one. The British ruled India in 1930s when Orwell was a colonial official. He felt the hatred, distrust, and resentment of the Burmese people toward officials of the British empire and agreed with them that Britain shouldn't have been there. Yet, he also experienced his hatred of the natives when they treated him terribly.

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