Examine the significance of why the Burmese want the narrator to kill the elephant.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The original question had to be edited down.  On one level, Orwell suggests that the literal understanding behind why the crowd wants the elephant to be killed is because it has wrought destruction and death on them.  The elephant has gone rogue and has trampled a person to death.  In this light, the crowd feels that the elephant has to be taken down.  Yet, from this, there are deeper implications as to why the crowd would want the narrator to kill the elephant.  The crowd is shown to be a vengeful force, not displaying the thought and contemplation of an individual, but rather seeking mob satisfaction.  This is expressed in a desire or lust for some type of retributive justice.  In this desire is where the crowd seeks the narrator to kill the elephant and take action.  At the same time, the political dimension is unavoidable, as the narrator finds out.  The crowd almost deliberately takes the event and flips the imperialist script.  They understand very well that the narrator, representing England is supposed to maintain "law and order," in a world it perceives to be lawless and savage.  The crowd uses this as a way to goad the narrator into taking action.  The moment of having to put down the elephant would represent the very essence of preserving supposed "law and order."  They understand this political dynamic well and for this reason seek to play it out with the narrator literally poised between the crowd and the elephant.  In doing so, the crowd has been able to make a statement about imperialism without even planning to do so.  It is for this reason that they want the narrator to take action, if nothing else to fulfill the stereotype of the master which was formulated in the first place from stereotype of the need to be a master.

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Shooting an Elephant

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