Who can give me a summary of what "Shooting an Elephant" is about?I have to write a summary over "Shooting an Elephant" but I have 3 more papers to write in such a short time span and I need help...

Who can give me a summary of what "Shooting an Elephant" is about?

I have to write a summary over "Shooting an Elephant" but I have 3 more papers to write in such a short time span and I need help with this one. So if anybody can help me I will really appreciate it?

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Shooting an Elephant" is a short story believed to be loosely based on George Orwell's own stint as an imperial policeman in Burma. Set in that former British colony, the story essentially relates the internal struggle of the narrator, a policeman called upon to shoot an elephant that has run amok through a bazaar and killed a man. After the elephant's rampage, the narrator encounters the beast peacefully munching on grass, and he does not want to kill it. But a crowd of Burmese people demands that he shoot the beast, and he feels compelled to do it for the simple reason that he wants to "avoid looking a fool."

This story is a critique of imperialism inasmuch as it illustrates the violence that is fundamentally underlying the relationship between the Burmese people and Britain. The narrator describes brutal beatings of natives, which he describes as the "bloody work of Empire." He emphasizes the mutual hatred between natives and Europeans, including himself. But it is the very act of shooting the elephant that demonstrates how ugly and corrupting the imperial relationship really is. The crowd expects violence from the narrator, and so he is forced, if only to "avoid looking a fool," to shoot the animal, which he really does not want to do. He thus fulfills his role in the eyes of the Burmese people.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shooting an Elephant is mostly a series of metaphors for the way that George Orwell feels/felt about both the larger circumstances of Great Britain's role as the occupier in India and his own role within the structure of that occupation.

The entire tale of the tracking of and then the shooting of the elephant bring out some of the futility of the British effort to control the Indian populace while knowing that there is no love lost between the colonizers and their colony as well as zero effort or capability to actually relate to or interact in normal ways with the populace at large.

As he feels terrible frustration at his own incompetence in trying to bring down the elephant and the inevitability of the populace eventually taking care of things and cleaning up the mess, so to speak.