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"Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell.

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Introduction

In the essay, "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell describes an incident he had while working as an Imperial Police officer in Burma. A domesticated elephant had gone out of control and was ravaging a town. He was forced to make a decision on whether to follow the will of the natives, or to save the elephant's life. One of the themes George Orwell discusses about is "pressure". Social pressure has a tremendous influence on people. This pressure comes from friends, family, teachers, and society itself. In the essay, the natives living in the town did not like Orwell because he was a British. One day a domesticated elephant escaped its cage. ...read more.

Middle

And at that distance, peace- fully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow" (Orwell 1360). However, a large group of Burmans had formed behind him, and they were now expecting him to kill the elephant. The people who had ridiculed and abused him the entire time he had been in Burma; now found him worthy of interest. If he did not kill the elephant, he would be disappointing thousands of the native people. He considered it his job at that point to impress the natives. He rationalized killing the elephant by saying he 'had' to, or he would look like a fool in front of the natives. ...read more.

Conclusion

I heard later that it took him half an hour to die" (Orwell 1362). These details plus his overall rationalization for shooting the elephant suggested that he would not want others following his behavior. This story is a good example of social pressure. The author did not want to shoot the elephant but the crowd pressured him. Orwell also felt he had to shoot the elephant in order to gain the respect of the natives. In the end he did not gain any respect and he felt terrible for killing the elephant. "I often wondered if whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool" (Orwell 1362). An extreme example of social pressure is when a person feels that someone pressured him or her to murder another person. ...read more.

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