Write a discussion on the topic of your favorite passage from "Shooting An Elephant." Make sure that your discussion post deals specifically with why this particular passage is a favorite of yours....

Write a discussion on the topic of your favorite passage from "Shooting An Elephant." Make sure that your discussion post deals specifically with why this particular passage is a favorite of yours. Make specific references to support your views, and identify the passage as being primarily powerful, persuasive, or beautiful. Lastly, connect the passage to one of the themes of the reading.

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant” is a gut-wrenching account of Orwell’s experience with a runaway elephant in colonial Burma.

At first the essay seems to be about nothing more than the writer’s attempt to apprehend and control an elephant that has gone “mad,” rampaging through a village and crushing a man to death. But further reading reveals that Orwell’s true literary intention is to look at the relationship between white colonial power and the local Burmese population that chafes under it. My favorite passage from this essay comes when he is considering killing the elephant against his own wishes:

And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. 

This passage is powerful in its observation that the white man, the oppressor, is actually forced, like a “puppet,” to do the will of the colonial Burmese who are looking on. It creates something of a paradox—the oppressor is in some ways also oppressed by those he supposedly controls. Orwell sums up this idea with the following line:

I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. 

This may not have been a very popular viewpoint when it was published in 1936. The British were accustomed to subjugating populations in the various countries that comprised their “empire.” Most British probably did not want to hear such an opinion about the white man’s role in the world. Orwell, however, never shied away from controversy. In fact, he was about create a lot more of it a few years later with the publication of the classic Animal Farm.

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