Where in his description do you think he reaches "the moment of truth" a term used in bullfighting? Explain.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," he reveals just how British he really is.  While he expresses,

I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better....Theoretically--and secretly, of course--I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.

his behavior at the "moment of truth" is purely that of a British colonial official.  Faced with the decision whether to shoot the elephant that is reported as mad, Orwell narrates that he "did not want to shoot,...[that]it seemed...that it would be murder to shoot him." But, Orwell realizes that the crowd of Burmese would laugh at him if he does not do so.  Orwell's moment of truth is expressed in his line,  "That would never do."  He writes that "there was only one alternative": shoot the elephant. Like the matador, he does his job, following "proper form" and does not walk away from the animal, an act that would make him seem weak and foolish.  However, after he walks from the tragically dying elephant as a symbol of the falling British Empire, Orwell wonders,

whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would define a "moment of truth" as the point that everything depends upon.  It is the moment during a crisis when things can go one way or the other.  It is the most important moment.  To me, the moment of truth in this story is the moment at which Orwell decides whether he will kill the elephant.

This is the crucial moment both for the actual action in the story and for the overall point that Orwell is trying to make about imperialism.  In the story, this is an important because it is the moment when he decides whether the elephant will live or die.

But on a deeper level, this is the moment when Orwell decides what kind of a person he will be.  He has to decide if he will go with what he thinks is right or if he will knuckle under to the pressure.  When he gives in, he is showing how imperialism degrades the colonizers.  He is showing that colonizers do not act with integrity but rather act to maintain their prestige and power.

At the moment of truth, Orwell had to decide between his integrity and what other people wanted him to do.  He chose the second, and that showed how being an imperialist had degraded him morally.

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