Shooting an Elephant



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“Shooting an Elephant” Discussion Questions

1. Imperialism means…

2. Despotism means…

3. The purpose of the essay’s first paragraph is to…

4. The second paragraph explores a conflict within Orwell…

5. Orwell is “not afraid in the ordinary sense,” as he would be if he were alone, but is afraid in a different way…

6. It proves very difficult to kill the elephant…

7. Orwell realizes why he has shot the elephant…

8. According to Orwell, why must imperialism ultimately fail?

9. How does the incident depicted in this essay demonstrate about the true nature of imperialism?

10. Why would it be misguided to argue that this essay is about the power of peer pressure?

11. What does the essay have to say about the search for power and the resulting loss of one’s authority and power to make moral choices?

12. How does the detailed description of the elephant (grandmotherly, troubled breathing, immensely old, senile, legs sagging, head drooping, blood like red velvet, powerless) support the essay’s argument and persuasive purpose?

13. The pacing of the elephant’s death (in paragraphs 11 and 12) slows down significantly to emphasize that particular scene. How does the elephant’s slow death affect Orwell’s point of view about what he has done?

14. How does the detailed description of the masses support the essay’s argument and persuasive purpose?

15. How does the detailed description of Orwell—and those like him—support the essay’s argument and persuasive purpose?



16. How does the theatrical imagery (masks, garish clothing, the “conjurer about to perform a trick,” theater curtains, the watching crowd, the “absurd puppet,” the “lead actor,”) support the essay’s argument and purpose?


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