In his essay "On Shooting an Elephant," when Orwell finds the elephant, what two reasons does he give for not wanting to shoot it?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Orwell certainly does not relish his position as Colonial police officer when he receives the call to investigate a rogue elephant. When he reaches the elephant he does not wish to shoot it because his moral conscience is stirred. So, he contemplates reasons for not killing it:

  1. A working elephant is valuable and it is a very serious act to shoot such an elephant, so doing so should be avoided.
  2. It seems like murder to shoot the animal. But, when he sees the Burmese faces watching him, Orwell realizes that he will have to shoot the elephant.

But, when he sees the Burmese faces watching him, Orwell realizes that he will have to shoot the elephant. Because Orwell is in the position of the colonial power, he must shoot it in order to avoid embarrassment at the hands of the faces watching him. And, at that moment, Orwell senses the futility and the hollowness of "the white man's dominion in the East."

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Shooting an Elephant

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