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Shooting an Elephant

by George Orwell

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How is the elephant a key symbol in "Shooting an Elephant"?

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It is important for the many different things that it represents. At different times, the elephant represents the dying power of the British empire (look at how long it takes to die, and how the Burmese strip the body once it is dead), the size and nature of Kipling's duty (and especially the "white man's burden"), in the fact that the mahout, its proper ruler, has gone missing (when there is no local control, the empire must step in), the nature of experience in distant lands (look at how the stories about the elephant vary), and in the gap between what Kipling knows he should do as an individual (not kill the elephant) and his role as a representative as a civilization.

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