British Imperialism in Burma: Shooting an Elephant
Abstract The present study looks at an important political essay “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. The literary critics gave the text wide recognition and appreciation. It depicts Orwell’s anti-imperialistic view which is presented through the shooting of an elephant. The theme is presented in a fantastic way and this is evident from Orwell’s use of lexis, syntax, cohesive ties, point of view, and figures of speech.
A closer look at the experiences he had gone indicate that his sentiment matches his objectives and that he has been successful in attaining his political, artistic as well as thematic aims through his elegant style of storytelling. Introduction George Orwell writes of his experience in British-ruled India in the early Twentieth Century. At the time, he was a young, inexperienced soldier stationed there to help protect the Queen’s interests. While he was there, he had to do something that had made some ethical conflicts within him. British Imperialism immerged and killed people’s freedom, hopes, and desires.
British Imperialism in Burma: Shooting an Elephant Essay Example
Shooting an Elephant is an essay written and published in the autumn of 1936. The essay mainly illustrates how a white British imperial police officer in Burma reacted and responded when he ought to encounter a ravaging elephant while he was on duty. The story is set in the British-conquered Burma. The setting of this story provides images and portrayal of imperialism of Britain during their imperial era. The narrator describes the way he feels toward the natives and how the natives respond toward the European throughout his retelling of experiences.
The description and portrayal of imperialism in this story shows that being a conqueror does not necessarily means total control—the conquered might as well control the conqueror in a different way, and being in charge of controlling simply means lending out freedom to the occupation. Imperialism was seen in many different views: some view it as a noble thing in which the empire brings culture, religion, and civilization for the savages and some other view it as an evil thing—like the narrator of this story. It is considered as a cruel domination of less-powered nation by others who are stronger and more advanced.
The narrator’s hate toward the empire is actually unsurprising. He does not get any benefit from the empire. What he gets is the position where everybody hates him, with high risks, and high level of stress, away from his home, where he can see the “dirty work of Empire at close quarter. ” These descriptions show that imperialism is mainly the government’s interest but not the people’s. The aim of this term paper is… 1. To expose the evil of imperialism that arises in Burma under British occupiers. 2. To show how symbolism and irony were used all throughout the composition. 3.
To inform people about how pressure can influence a person to do something he/she doesn’t want to and might not get anything from it. The questions are… 1. How does Imperialism affect the occupied people? 2. How do these occupiers define power? 3. How does pressure manipulate people’s will to do things he doesn’t want to? Evil of Imperialism and its effect to people Imperialism is evil. First, it humiliates the occupied people, reducing them to inferior status in their own country. Second, it pushes the occupiers into making immoral or unethical decisions to maintain their superiority over the people.
In “Shooting an Elephant,” the narrator acts against his own conscience to save face for himself and his fellow imperialists. The main character is the narrator who experiences external and internal conflicts. The narrator is a Young Englishman serving as a police officer in Burma in the 1920s, when Burma was part of British-controlled India. He strongly opposes the oppressive British rule of Burma and the rest of India. At the same time, he resents the ridicule he receives from the natives, who are unaware that he is on their side politically. The narrator’s views represent those of the author, George Orwell.
“I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. ” “As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. ” The narrator thinks that the British Empire’s occupation of Burma is unjust and also, another conflict is with the Burmese because of their mockery of him as a representative of the British Empire. But Orwell did not want to look like a fool in the eyes of the natives. “For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.
” Orwell is speaking to the British population about their Imperial government and how it is ineffective, hurtful, and oppressive to all. Orwell’s purpose was to show the oppressiveness of British Imperial rule. Imperialism is harmful to everyone, to the oppressed and the oppressor. “I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. ” (Orwell) Imperialism takes away freedom for even the Imperialists. “But I did not want to shoot the elephant…. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him.
” (Orwell) Imperialism is definitely synonymous to domination. This act of power usually includes economical, political, or even military dominance over the colonized country, not to mention the territorial domination. The event that Orwell was being pressured by the mob of yellow people shows that the natives are the one who manipulates the vanquisher, it is imperialism upside-down, and this essay shows that this is the nature of imperialism. An imperial agent such as the narrator of the story is nothing more than a puppet in-between the conqueror and the conquered. Prejudice to the system and to its people
Although the narrator seems to respect the natives as fellow human beings, other Europeans regard the Burmese and Indians with contempt—an attitude made clear near the end of the story: “[T]he younger [Europeans] said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. ” Historically, the British placed their own men in positions of authority in the colonial government in India, which then incorporated Burma, and natives in inferior positions. Moreover, the British generally did not socialize with the natives.
Burma being a colonized country, it experiences different prejudices under its British rulers. The breaking down of the indigenous culture and, in some cases, the complete loss of indigenous languages the physical harm of the local population and the exploitation of the local population occurred during these days. We find the Burmese in general too ignorant to have a clear understanding of the way in which they are being treated and, as a result, too ignorant to show the least resentment. Besides, for the moment they have not suffered much economic damage. British seized the mines and the oil wells. They control timber production.
All sorts of middlemen, brokers, millers, exporters, have made colossal fortunes from rice without the producer-that is the peasant-getting a thing out of it. The British are robbing and pilfering Burma quite shamelessly but we must stress that the Burmese hardly notice it for the moment. Their country is so rich, their population so scattered, their needs, like those of all Orientals, so slight that they are not conscious of being exploited. Pressure done to its people The first impressions about George Orwell’s “Shooting An Elephant” include a white man not being accepted by his surroundings in Burma.
It eventually leads to a tragic death of an elephant and some happy Burmese people; however, in the end the narrator reflects on his actions. The central meaning within this essay is that social pressure on a person leads to foolish actions in order to be accepted. When it comes to an event where the natives are the one who controls the conqueror, it is imperialism upside-down, the nature of imperialism. An imposing agent such as the narrator of the story is nothing more than a puppet in-between the conqueror and the conquered.
Ironically the status and alignment which the agent has does not help him to gain control over anything. He is at the same time controlled by the conqueror and the conquered, making him simply out of place: “And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.
” (Orwell) Why shoot an elephant? The reason why he shoots the elephant is simply “to avoid looking fool. ” The native crowds expect him to shoot the elephant to get “a bit of entertainment. ” He hates both the natives and the empire, now his whole life in the colonial country is all about avoiding the native’s jeers and that is what he exactly does. If he ran out, or do nothing about the elephant, the natives obviously will laugh at him. That is the only reason why he shot the elephant, why he does it against his better judgment. Just like his view toward the Burmese, he has a difficulty in making his own mind.
He did not want to shot the elephant, but he did not want the natives to laugh at him. He decided not to shot it, but the decision changes a minute later. “But I did not want to shoot the elephant. . . . It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. . . . Besides, there was the beast’s owner to be considered. . . . But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.
” The passage above shows his consideration before he shot the elephant. However, this passage shows the reason why he finally chose to shot it: “To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at. ” Orwell is ashamed to had submitted to the pressure of the Burmans, but he does so at his own will. Respect among the people is highly valued to Orwell.
He claims that “every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at” (Orwell). This weakness plagues the author throughout the story and displays the softness of his character. This softness foreshadows the collapse of his morals, and ultimately the slow, sad death of the elephant. The author’s mistake in his decision cost him the goodness of his character, and forced upon him the horrifying experience of watching the elephant die slowly in pain. This sight was so disturbing to Orwell that he leaves. “In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away” (Orwell).
This quote also hints at the shamefulness that the author feels and the dishonor which prevails over him in the end. Conclusion In a world where people must work hand in hand to accomplish one goal, a peaceful coexistence, imperialism has done cruel and unjust treatment to the people who are with lesser power to fight them. This wicked act humiliates the occupied people, reducing them to inferior status in their own country and it goads the occupiers into making immoral or unethical decisions to maintain their superiority over the people.
“The greater the power, the dangerous the abuse,” according to Edmund Burke. Power is the ability or authority to control people and events, whether it is economically or politically. . It is the ability or authority to control people and events, whether it is economically or politically. Power is defined as a political or national strength; strength might force or possession or control over others authority. Power is apparent in every society all over the world. Power itself is not necessarily a bad thing with many cases of power producing positive results.
It is when power is combined with abuse that a problem begins. Many people in power abuse their position through authority with manipulative strategies. Such behavior can have negative, inaccurate, unfair or even bias outcomes. With great powers in hand, people make use of this power to manipulate the ones who are inferior to them. People used to think of ways on how he can be more powerful. Power fuels people to strive hard to attain this and once they did, this creates different forms of wickedness to be done in their inferior.
It thickens and numbs the humane and benevolent part of the one who acquires great power. “Power gradually extirpates for the mind every humane and gentle virtue,” (Burke) “And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.
” (Orwell) More so, one of the effects of imperialism incorporated in this essay is the imperialism upturned, how the colonized create strings to their colonizer and let them be their puppet through the pressure the bestow. “And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at. ” (Orwell) There is a conflict with himself in his fight with his conscience and his personal dilemmas. So, he had to choose combat between his ideas and his emotions. This fear for being laughed by their colonized people fuels a false bravery just to avoid looking a fool.
The relationship that develops with the British Empire is that of slave and master. Is this good thing or not? That is not the question; let us simply say that British control is despotic and, to put it plainly, self-interested. Even though the Burmese have not had much cause for complaint up till now, the day will come when the riches of their country will be insufficient for a population which is constantly growing. Then they will be able to appreciate how capitalism shows its gratitude to those to whom it owes its existence.