Shooting an Elephant

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  • Shooting an Elephant
  • Often times, people tend to look towards those in authority due to their inherent credibility from their position. In the short story, “Shooting an Elephant”, by George Orwell, the author revisits a time in his life where he was placed into a situation where his position as the oppressor is tested as he is forced to make a difficult decision to kill a rampant elephant. As people deprive others of their freedom, they paradoxically deprive their own freedom as they are continually expected to assert their authority through visual acts that exemplifies their power and dominance; the oppressor must maintain the superficial sense of superiority in order to keep the victims in submission. As the author reminisces on the events that occurred before the actual shooting, he notes he had to “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 1257). His work requires him to establish himself as a stronger individual than those around him, therefore he believes it is necessary to act upon the expectations of those who look up to him as a dominant figure. By doing so, he loses his free will to act on his morality and conscience but rather form decisions that are shaped by the expectations of the oppressed, thus depriving himself of his own freedom. Ultimately, by submissing others through utilizing one’s own authoritative power, they are oppressing themselves through the restriction of their own decisions as they are greatly influenced by the group who they are assigned to oppress, losing the ability to choose what they want to do. In relation to history, one can view how the age of imperialism reflects how the oppressors often times oppress themselves in the process. As the warring nations proceeded to take over each territory systematically, they are often burdened since they must send over troops to protect their newly claimed land, money to support the new population, and other necessities to maintain order among the oppressed. Conclusively, the restrictive force an oppressive entity imposes on its victims conversely restricts itself, revealing a shocking irony of the corrupt nature of power that only serves to harm everybody involved in the system. 
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