George Orwell: Essays

Shooting an Elephant

What textual evidence indicates how the narrator feels about the British presence and his own job as an Imperial police officer? What are his internal conflicts with Imperialism?

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Textual Evidence:

For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective.

Orwell was against Imperialism. He felt it oppressed the people in the British colonies. Orwell saw the elephant in much the same way he saw the British empire. Both were strong and powerful, but neither had control over the situations they found themselves in. Orwell didn't support the oppression of the Burmese people, and his conflict wasn't so much about the fact he hated his job, but that his job existed to begin with.


Shooting an Elephant