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Shooting an Elephant

by George Orwell

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What was George Orwell's job in Burma and was he liked or disliked by the Burmese for it?

The Burmese disliked George Orwell because of his connection to the British colonialists, but they did not prevent him from doing his job.

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George Orwell worked as the sub-divisional police officer in the town of Moulmein in Lower Burma. He worked in this role between 1922 and 1927. Generally, he was hated by the people that he policed, as he describes:

I was hated by large numbers of people - the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.

To support this, Orwell provides a number of examples in the text. During a game of football, for instance, he was tripped up by a "nimble Burman" while the referee "looked away" and the spectating crowd "yelled with hideous laughter."

Similarly, Orwell was hated by the Burmese priests, of whom there was a large population where he worked. He says that these priests often stood on street corners and jeered at Orwell (and other Europeans) at every chance they got.

The Burmese did, however, have certain expectations of Orwell and did not get in the way of his duty. When the elephant went on the rampage, for example, they looked to him to bring the situation under control.

In this respect, then, the Burmese may not have liked Orwell because of his link to colonial Britain, but they did not prevent him from doing his job, nor did they act in open rebellion against him.

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