Why did the Burmese hate George Orwell in "Shooting an Elephant"?

In "Shooting an Elephant," the Burmese hated Orwell not on a personal level, but because he was a policeman, a representative of the British regime which they felt to be oppressive and against which they reacted in whatever small ways they could.

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There are plenty of reasons why the local people hated Orwell , or rather, what Orwell represented. First, Orwell represented British colonial authority, so in his official capacity, Orwell was the face of British subjugation. Second, Orwell was a very awkward and unsure colonial officer. Even though the Burmese hated...

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There are plenty of reasons why the local people hated Orwell, or rather, what Orwell represented. First, Orwell represented British colonial authority, so in his official capacity, Orwell was the face of British subjugation. Second, Orwell was a very awkward and unsure colonial officer. Even though the Burmese hated the British, they respected British power, but Orwell was not very effective at wielding that power. In fact, he secretly sided with the Burmese, but the Burmese interpreted this as weakness and hated him for it.

The elephant incident brings all of this to a crux. Orwell is uncertain what to do about the elephant, and the notion that it was his job to manage things was ludicrous. Nevertheless, the elephant was destroying the village and had killed a man, and something had to be done. Orwell's inability to protect these people is another source of their hatred. When he confronts the elephant, he is convinced that he ought not kill it, but this is another point on which the hatred of the Burmese villagers turns because the expectation, once he sends for the elephant gun, is that he will use it and that there will be the spectacle of the shooting and elephant meat for the taking. Orwell's reluctance to kill the elephant is another sign, for them, of his weakness.

Orwell feels the power of the crowd watching him and their expectation that he will shoot the animal. His decision to shoot it and the horrible way in which the animal dies is a kind of simulacrum, in Orwell's view, of the experience of British colonialism in the east.

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As a sub-divisional police officer stationed in lower Burma in "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell is hated because he represents the oppressive British imperial regime and enforces colonial rule of law. Although Orwell secretly sympathizes with the plight of the native Burmese civilians, he is viewed as a ruthless oppressor in a foreign land, where "anti-European feeling was very bitter." The hatred towards Orwell is not personal, and all European foreigners are viewed and treated with disdain by the locals, who are subjected to their discriminatory practices and suffer the consequences of imperialism.

In the story, Orwell is highly critical of imperialism and witnesses first-hand the "dirty work of Empire at close quarters." However, he is forced to carry out his duties regardless of his personal feelings and to wear the metaphorical mask of a resolute authority figure. The native Burmese civilians display their hatred toward Orwell by constantly jeering at him and do everything in their power to make his life miserable. Consequently, Orwell develops his own feelings of hatred towards the Native people and grows to despise the Buddhist priests who irritate him.

Orwell discusses his conflicting feelings towards the locals and his contempt for the imperial regime he represents. He recognizes that he is in a difficult situation, where he cannot express his individualism and must maintain a certain disposition in front of the locals at all times. Before Orwell is forced to shoot an elephant against his will, he experiences an epiphany and acknowledges the outcome of tyranny. He comes to the conclusion that "when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys."

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The fact that he was hated by the Burmese during his time in Burma is the first thing Orwell mentions in his essay "Shooting an Elephant." Evidently, he felt the force of their hatred very strongly, because, as he notes here, this was the only time he had ever been sufficiently important to be so hated.

Orwell explains that the hatred directed towards him was in no way personal. On the contrary, it was the outcome of general anti-European feeling in the country, which was, as Orwell describes it, both "bitter" and generally rather quiet and nonviolent. Because the people were afraid to actively riot, they would instead "bait" police officers and otherwise take out their anger on other safe targets. They would trip Orwell in the street and shout insults after him.

Orwell found this extremely upsetting, because he was in a difficult situation in terms of his own beliefs. He hated his own job and did not believe that the British should be in Burma, but at the same time, he felt rage at the Burmese who made his job so "impossible." He felt that this was the natural outcome of working in any imperial post for any length of time. It did not matter that his own political views meant that he should, in theory, sympathize with the Burmese; in actuality, on a day-to-day basis, he was stung by their hatred and their behavior towards him.

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In "Shooting An Elephant," Orwell (or the narrator) is hated by the Burmese not for himself as an individual but for his official position in the colonial regime. As he puts it in the opening of the essay:

I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.

He is disliked because he is a sub-divisional police officer in the British empire. He notes that hatred against Europeans is running high.

The essay is centrally concerned with the dehumanizing effects of imperialism—a system in which a more powerful country takes control of another country—on both the ruling-class British and the native peoples of Burma. Everyone gets caught up in a system of evil that forces people to behave according to type, not as individuals. The narrator, for example, feels forced by the system to play the expected role of a take-charge leader, even when it means shooting an elephant that is no longer dangerous. The elephant suffers and dies slowly. The narrator acts against his own individual reason and humanity merely so the British can save face.

Orwell uses this essay to condemn the cruelty and irrationality of imperialism.

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