Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

Shooting an Elephant book cover
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Why did George Orwell shoot the elephant?

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I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.”

The final statement of the autobiographical sketch Shooting an Elephant is the answer to this question.  To the natives of Burma, the author is the representative of the mighty British Empire. So he must act in a way that’s impressive as well as that is expected of a sahib.

To understand this better, one must speculate what the situation would have been had he not shot at the giant elephant. The author had been posted as a sub-divisional police officer in Burma, then a colony of the British Empire. Although he may be a strong condemner of...

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rickthekrauser | Student

Orwell did not originally intend to shoot the elephant as he realized it was no longer a threat.  He only got the gun so that he could protect himself if need be.  However, soon after his realization that the Elephant does not need to be killed he states,

"The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly."

So, Orwell shoots the elephant because he understands it is what the natives expect him to do. In order to maintain respect from the natives for the colonists he realizes he must do what is expected of him.