Shooting an Elephant - Orwell's insecurities prompted the murder of a defenseless animal.

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Jordan Fife                                                                                                                                                    1

English 1

David Zehr


Shooting an Elephant: Orwell’s Insecurities Prompted the Murder of a Defenseless Animal

        The short story “Shooting an Elephant”, by George Orwell, is a narration that subtly discusses Orwell’s motives for killing an escaped elephant.  As a sub-division officer for imperialist Britain in 1936, Orwell attempts to keep the favor of the native townspeople where he is stationed and to avoid humiliation.  The townspeople of Burma neither favored nor respected Orwell until an event occurred that would allow a character opinion to be made.  The event was a disruptance where he had to shoot an elephant for the alleged safety of the public.  Orwell is not motivated to kill the elephant for the safety of the public, but by his fear of his own insecurities that plague him. Orwell is uniquely susceptible to peer pressure and pressed forward to action through humility. Upon initial assessment of the situation that would test the strength of Orwell’s character he concludes “at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him”(4) proving when left to his free will and choice Orwell is a person of strong moral fiber.

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Orwell’s main insecurity is the fear of humiliation. The laughter and “jeering” of the Burmese people are a source of apprehension for Orwell.  As a peace officer in an otherwise subordinate country, Orwell is subjected to laughter on many occasions.  One of his first exposures to humiliation occurred at a football match when “the crowd yelled with hideous laughter… In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men met me everywhere, the insults


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This is a well written essay that analyses the texts and the writer's language choices in detail and in depth. At times multiple interpretations of points could be considered to consider more than one reading of certain language choices at text, sentence and word level. 5 Stars