"Shooting an Elephant"

"Shooting an Elephant"
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  • Shooting an Elephant
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  • The power and pressure of a crowd is enough to influence any individual to make a decision that they would normally avoid. George Orwell explained his viewpoint on imperialism when he wrote “Shooting an Elephant” by restating his experience as a British officer for the Burmese, in which he believes that imperialism is wrong even though he also hates the native Burmese people for ridiculing his job and making life as a foreigner terrible. Orwell argues that even though those in power may appear to be in control of their regions, it is quite the opposite, with the crowd having the power to influence the oppressor. 
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  • When given a job to take care of a rampaging elephant, Orwell was pressured into shooting the elephant when he originally was only planning to make sure the elephant had calmed down, as “They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly,” (Orwell 1257). Even though the author brought an elephant rifle with him, he was not planning to shoot the elephant because he only wanted the rifle for his own safety along with the fact that the elephant was already relaxed.
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  • However, with the thousands of watchful eyes behind him, Corwell was pressured into believing that if he did not shoot the elephant, he would be further ridiculed by the Burmese. This pressure made him forced him to kill the elephant even though he originally refused to do so. This is parallel to his view on imperialism, as he hates the job that he is tasked with and pressured by society to conform to the standards expected of him. The Burmese people are excited for and expect him to shoot and kill the elephant even though Corwell is part of the British regime, who have enslaved the Indian country, which would simply lead to a display of authority and power.
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  • People often have the misunderstanding in which the oppressors are the only ones with power, however, the oppressors can also be pressured and influenced to make decisions that would otherwise violate their own ideals. Within this story, there are multiples examples of oppression, from both the author and the Burmese people themselves. Orwell displays multiple examples of interpersonal racism, as the Burmese people would mock him or even hurt him for being British and imperializing their country.
  • In addition, examples of internalized racism are displayed by Orwell’s hate for British imperialism. Orwell hates the British due to the evil practices of imperialism even though he is of British heritage as well. In conclusion, Orwell does not believe in the common misconception that those with power are completely in control, but that those in power can also be easily oppressed or influenced themselves. One connection can be made in history during the Civil Rights Movement, in which African Americans were oppressed into believing that they were inferior compared to white people.
  • This institutional racism segregated African Americans to have less rights compared to whites, which was later changed due to the Civil Rights Movement. By rising up against their oppressors and drawing attention towards their justified cause, African Americans were able to influence their oppressors, the white people residing in high positions within government, to change laws that would benefit African Americans. The oppressed were able to influence people of power to create laws that violated the prominent ideals of racism in the past.
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