The reading, “Shooting an Elephant” takes place in Moulmein. He starts of the story in spectacle as to why the locals have so much hatred toward the Europeans when in all reality his main goal was only to help and protect the townspeople from any hurt, harm or danger that may come their way. In this story, the police officer’s duty was to respond to a report of the death of a man who was killed by a stray elephant.
Upon approaching the dead man, he finds the man “lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to the side. It was at this point, that he senses the communal determination of the crowd pressuring him into shooting the elephant. So after a constant debate within himself, he finally comes to the conclusion that he must shoot the elephant in order to prove his strength to the locals. From my reading of this text, I believe that the purpose is to inform. The main idea within the story is somewhat subtle and has a lot of bearing on the main events that take place in the text.
The officer is heavily laughed at from all the people within the town and however hard he tries to be accepted, the society will not receive him. With this being so, he is willing to do whatever it takes, at any cost just to fit in and to be somewhat respected by the locals. This causes him to go against his own premonition and go to the extremes of killing an elephant. In the text it states that the whole situation made him feel both uneasy and unnerved. The author goes into even more detail, describing the various tests and precautions he took before taking the shot.
As he comes upon the time before he chooses to take the shot, a sense of regret and sorrow comes over him and the whole tone of the story changes from one of haughtiness to one of distress and indecisiveness. Now that he is here, he feels as if there is no way out of the situation which was created by all the people who had followed him. There are many factors which contribute to the idea of the tone being indecisive, such as when he starts referring to the elephant as “it” and “he.
He also makes notes of the “preoccupied grandmotherly air,” concluding that “it would be murder to shoot the elephant. ” The author’s use of figurative language was very evident throughout the text and in many cases very interesting as well. He uses the example of how a woman walking in a bazaar alone would get betel juice spit over her dress and relates it to how as a police officer, he encountered many circumstances of the same manner. This analogy is used to depict the significance of the low level of respect that the Burman’s had for him as an officer of the law.
Also Orwell uses the phrases like,”saecula saeculrum” which means from time immemorial to describe the British Sovereignty, which he refers to as an unbreakable tyranny, and as something clamped down upon. The use of these words allows the reader to truly realize the deep hatred and animosity that the officer has towards his own empire. From my understanding of the text, the author is trying to justify his reasoning for killing the elephant. The claim he makes is that he had proper means to murder the elephant, being that he had killed a man, but I disagree with his viewpoint.
His basis for support is not credible and he has no sound backing for this claim. The evidence the author uses that the burden of the will of the people weighed heavy on him and felt that he couldn’t let them down. This evidence is somewhat accurate, but it is not sufficient enough to provide support for this claim. His main reason for killing the elephant was fundamentally peer pressure. He felt that by killing the elephant, he would then be able to prove to the Burmese that he was able “man enough” to take the shot, all in an effort to win the respect of the people.
Both bias and assumptions are in the writing and are exhibited by both the officer and the Burmese people as well. The Burmese people automatically had been culturally inbred with a predetermined bias toward the Europeans and they made life practically torture for those in law enforcement in their country. In the text he states that the feeling of anti-Europeanism is very bitter and that even everyone, even the Buddhist priests jeered at them.
They make “every white man’s life in the East was one long struggle not to be laughed at. Also in another sense, the officer himself exhibits bias toward the elephant itself. Even though at the moment before he killed the elephant the animal seemed calm and gentle. But he disregarded all this tangible evidence in order to do what he assumed the people wanted him to do as an acting “sahib”. He says that he is wearing a mask that he has fill and that a sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things.
I can relate my own assumptions to this occurrence because if I see a person in eadership, I automatically assume that they have the accurate skills in order to lead me to where I need to go; which in the same light, the Burmese people were looking to the police officer to take care of the elephant for them, all because of his leadership role within their society. The author’s worldview consists of the main aspect of rationalizing ones behavior to be right even though it may be wrong. It almost seems as if his line between right and wrong is slightly blurred.
He tends to twists the facts in his favor in order to support his standpoint and validate his actions. In my opinion, this differs form my worldview because I take facts at their face value and act upon them. Any distortion of the truth is a lie and wrong is wrong. Also if I have made up my mind and am steadfast in my decisions, I will not let anyone else come along and sway my opinion or coax me into doing something I would otherwise not. If given the choice, I would have to disagree with the author.
This is based on the grounds that the author’s viewpoint and morals seem to differ from mine. In many instances, just from reading you can pick up on how easily the officer’s mind is changed just because of peer pressure form the on looking crowd. In my own personal life, one experience that was similar that I found in the text was the issue with the respect of those in law enforcement. Many times, just like in the text, the members of society don’t really hold those who protect them and keep the order of the land in high esteem as they should.
They are only trying to help and they endure brutal prejudice from others, all based on both bias and assumptions. However, differences within the text were very clear; on the subject of governments acting as tyrannies. I personally have never been in the situation as to where the government had complete control over everything that occurred. I believe this method of governing is both harmful and oppressive to those under its rule and in the long run is detrimental to those members within that particular society.