“Shooting An Elephant” p. 1016 George Orwell

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“Shooting An Elephant” p. 1016 George Orwell

  • “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people” (Orwell).

George Orwell

  • (1903 - 1950)
  • British journalist and author
  • Wrote two of the most famous novels of the 20th century, Animal Farm and 1984.

George Orwell

  • Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in eastern India, the son of a British colonial civil servant.
  • He was educated in England and, after he left Eton, joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then a British colony.
  • He resigned in 1927, and decided to become a writer.

George Orwell

  • In 1928, he moved to Paris where lack of success as a writer forced him into a series of menial jobs.
  • He described his experiences in his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933.
  • He took the name George Orwell, shortly before its publication.


  • Prostrate: defenseless/in a prone or lying position
  • Imperialism: policy and practice of forming and maintaining an empire in order to control raw materials and world markets by the conquests of other countries and the establishment of colonies
  • Despotic: tyrannical
  • Squalid: miserably poor; wretched
  • Dominion: rule or power to rule; a governed territory
  • Senility: mental or physical decay due to old age

Literary Device/Irony

  • Irony: literary device that brings out surprising or amusing contradictions.
  • In verbal irony, the intended meaning of words clashes with their usual meaning, as when Orwell describes the dangerous elephant as “grandmotherly.”
  • In irony of situation, events contradict what you expect to happen, as when the young Buddhist priests are revealed to be the most insulting toward the British.

Personal Narrative

  • Personal narratives usually focus on one key event.
  • Though true, they are told like fictional stories:

About the Selection

  • Orwell’s essay reveals the ambivalence (uncertainty) a person may feel in a position of power.
  • On one hand, young Orwell sympathizes with the Burmese people.
  • On the other hand, Orwell, the police officer, is committed to continuing and even defending that oppression.

Orwell’s Conflicting Attitudes

  • Orwell’s sympathy for the Burmese
  • His dislike of imperialism
  • His desire to leave his job
  • **These attitudes conflict with his role as police officer and his bad treatment by the Burmese.

State of “MUST”


  • The narrator, an officer of the British imperial police in Burma, considers himself an enemy of imperialism.
  • His role as a representative of the British crown invites the hatred of the Burmese.
  • One day an elephant ravages a bazaar and kills a laborer (coolie).
  • The narrator, who must track down the elephant, has no intention of shooting it, especially when he finds it grazing peacefully in a paddy.

Summary - continued

  • Yet, Orwell feels he must maintain “face” in front of the crowd of Burmese who have followed him.
  • Inexperienced, he repeatedly wounds the elephant, leaving the scene before the animal dies.
  • The villagers cut up the elephant’s body for food.

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