Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

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Why do you think Orwell devotes so much time to the elephant's misery in paragraphs 11 and 12 of "Shooting an Elephant"?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When discussing "Shooting an Elephant," it is worth noting that this essay was drawn from Orwell's actual living experience. Thus, there exists the very real possibility that this event involving the elephant actually happened to Orwell. Regardless, this essay is steeped with autobiographical components, and draws from a deeply personal perspective.

Orwell envisions colonialism as fundamentally traumatic for all parties, and his essay has a deeply visceral quality throughout. But if we work from the understanding that this incident with the elephant might have actually happened to Orwell, then all those details might well have served to convey the reality of events as Orwell recalls them. Even if we assume otherwise, it remains a fact of the historical record that Orwell was a colonial police officer in Southeast Asia. With that in mind, all this graphic and excruciating detail serves as a way by which Orwell can convey the pure misery of life as a colonial officer to readers who might...

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