What is Orwell saying about Colonialism in "On Shooting an Elephant"?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Editors can answer only one question at a time; so try to use your answer to this question for your comparison between "Elephant" and Things Fall Apart.

In "On Shooting an Elephant," Orwell demonstrates his internal conflict with the ideals of Colonialism. Orwell shoots the elephant which is a symbol of the British Empire or Imperialism in general; however, he does so with reservation, in part to save the Burmese people who are in danger of being trampled by the animal. Orwell's struggle arises from the knowledge that he is in Burma to "serve" the British Empire, and yet, he has realized that the Empire is "trampling" on the Burmese just as the literal elephant does. Orwell views this as a possible prediction of what might happen to Britain if it continues to oppress the native people of its empire.

As a whole, Orwell portrays Colonialism as an unsustainable ideology which imposes its standards and culture upon native peoples. He warns through his essay that the ruling country will either one day self destruct or be destroyed by those whom it has oppressed.