Between his position as an official and his disenchantment with the bureaucracy, how does George Orwell become disillusioned with the aims and methods of colonialism?George Orwell's "On Shooting an...

Between his position as an official and his disenchantment with the bureaucracy, how does George Orwell become disillusioned with the aims and methods of colonialism?

George Orwell's "On Shooting an Elephant"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As an Anglo-Indian official, George Orwell writes in his essay "On Shooting an Elephant" that he has learned about the real motives for which despotic governments act from being sent to destroy an elephant which has broken its chain and was destroying the bazaar.  For, he realizes that the oppressor is almost as much the oppressed as those who are under his rule.

When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys....For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives expect of him.

The main motive for much of the action of the bureaucracy is to maintain appearances in the presence of the Burmese; it "would never do" for them to see him frightened or for them to see him act in any way but the expected manner.  In short, Orwell realizes that he kills because he does not want to appear as weak or foolish.  This motivation is similar to that of the colonial bureaucracy that imposes laws and restrictions simply so as to give the appearance of strength regardless of the effects of the laws and restrictive actions.  Thus, both the colonial power and those ruled feel the same degradation. 

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