Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Where in the essay "Shooting an Elephant" does it show that Orwell has conflicting feelings about his work as a police officer? "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

Expert Answers info

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Early in George Orwell's "On Shooting an Elephant," he expresses his distaste for his provincial job. Ambivalence characterizes his feeling as he explains that he was

all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British....In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. 

However, when he is called upon to perform his duties, Orwell expresses negative feelings toward the Burmese, saying that he could not get anything "into perspective" because

All I knew was that 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.

Orwell's diction indicates his more negative feelings.  For instance, when realizes that he must impress the sea of "yellow faces" when he is called upon to shoot the elephant. And, while he is reluctant to kill the majestic beast, he does so because he does not wish to be made a fool of by all the staring Burmese people who seem to delight in his position, watching him as they would a conjurer and giving a "devilish roar of glee" as he finally shoots the animal.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial