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The White Man’s Image

George Orwell’s short story “Shooting an Elephant” is about the struggle of an imperialist to act according to the expectation of the natives, in this case a European and the native Burmans, more than the morality of shooting an animal, in this case an elephant. The speaker in the story had already asserted in the beginning that he was stuck between his hatred of the British Empire and his “rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make [his] job impossible” (Orwell). The speaker reiterated his assertion in the end by stating that he has done the shooting of the elephant “solely to avoid looking a fool” (Orwell).

The speaker explained that his role, while seeming to be the “leading actor” in the situation, has diminished to an “absurd puppet” as it is a condition of the imperialist rule “that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him” (Orwell). The speaker related that he did not want to shoot the animal, even when others has justified that he did the right thing as the animal presented danger to the human population as evidenced by the dead Indian, but that the expectant crowd had prompted him to do so.

The speaker explained that the imperialist has “to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things” (Orwell). By taking an elephant rifle, it had appeared to the natives that the speaker is already going to shoot the beast. It did not matter to the crowd that the speaker had brought the rifle as a precautionary measure. It appears to me that the speaker in the story is caught between his own conscience and those that are expected of him. The speaker, however, forgot to regard that by not allowing himself to be dictated by the expectation of others, especially those he ought to “rule,” he is able to assert his authority more.

Had he chosen not to shoot the animal, despite the pressure he felt, though an imaginable one, from the crowd, he would have shown that his intellect and morals are superior than to those who expected that he has already going to shoot the animal. He could have ordered the crowed to disperse, to go back to things they were attending to before following him, and not think of what they would be thinking of him after. It is another concept that a ruler need not explain his actions to his subjects as long as he believes that it is for the best. Reference Orwell, G. “Shooting an elephant. ”

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