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Shooting an Elephant

by George Orwell

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Student Question

Which of the following is not used by Orwell in the first paragraph of Shooting an Elephant?

Expert Answers

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The first chapter of Shooting an Elephant shows ironic contrast in the way that Orwell compares the situation of Europeans in Burma amidst a strong anti-European feeling during the days that he worked there as a sub-divisional police officer. Europeans were bullied, and laughed at, in Burma, even by Buddhist monks. Therefore the situation for Europeans was significantly different and more negative than for the natives. These are also specific examples

No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress.


When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once.

The evidence of colloquial diction is found in the sentence:

As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.

The overall familiarity in tone that Orwell relates when speaking of his personal experience in Burma also constitutes colloquial diction, particularly with the mention of the betel juice spilled on European women as a way to symbolize what would constitute "a big deal" there.

Sentence structure in Shooting an Elephant does show consistency. All sentences are equally complex in they are compound sentences, in their majority divided with the conjunctions AND, or BUT. However, there is evidence of two sentences that are simple:

This happened to me more than once.


The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all.

We could argue that those two sentences merely serve as details to support the complex sentence that preceded them., and that the paragraph throughout is quite consistent. However the fact that Orwell uses both simple and complex sentences is considered variety in sentence structure.

This being said, this rhetorical analysis shows that the ONE element that is NOT evident in the first paragraph of Shooting an Elephant is a shift in point of view.

At all times Orwell speaks in first person omniscient and subjective, as he is explaining a situation that he has made sure to commit to memory so that he can tell the story from the bottom of his heart and using clear and concise examples as to the significance of the events. Therefore, Orwell does not shift his point of view in this paragraph and maintains his focus throughout.

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