Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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

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Kelvin Brakus eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout "Shooting an Elephant," the narrator's tone is both candid and frank as he talks openly and honestly about his experiences as a sub-divisional police officer in Burma. In the second paragraph, for example, the speaker admits that he, like all imperial officers, felt very conflicted about his role. On the one hand, he hated imperialism because of its tyranny but, on the other hand, he hated the Burmese people for the way they treated him. In addition, he also admits that he had no choice but to continue working in Burma because he needed a job. By confessing these thoughts and feelings, the narrator develops a strong sense of honesty with his audience.

Later, when the narrator shoots the elephant, the tone becomes depressing as he describes this animal in its final moments. He uses visual imagery to convey this change of tone. He highlights the "desperate slowness" of the elephant, for example, and the crashing of its body after he fires the final shot.

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