Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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Why did Orwell decide to shoot the elephant at last? And why three times?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout the short story, the narrator continually remarks that he has no intentions of shooting the elephant. However, when the British police officer requests an elephant gun to ensure his safety, a large crowd begins to gather and follow him towards the elephant. Upon spotting the elephant calmly eating grass by itself, the narrator believes that there is absolutely no reason to take its life. However, the police officer feels pressure from the crowd of Burmese citizens to shoot the elephant. Being a figure of colonial authority, the police officer feels the pressure to be perceived as callous and resolute in his decision-making. He also does not want to look like a fool in front of the Burmese citizens and decides to shoot the majestic creature out of peer-pressure.

After his initial shot, the elephant remains standing, and the narrator shoots it two more times. The British officer simply wants to put the elephant out of its misery and end the uncomfortable situation. The three...

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