George Orwell: Essays

what does the story tell you about constraints on behaviour of people with power and people who are "powerless"?

shooting an elephant by george orwell

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The irony of this story lies in the fact that the author shot the elephant only to avoid looking like a fool in front of the natives who hated him anyway. The author is a British officer in Burma. The empire where the sun never sets was on its last days but still intact. The author who should hold all the power to make a decision not to shoot the angry elephant stands impotent in front of a crowd of two thousand natives. He is a white man with a gun and is expected to kill this elephant. The author didn't want to harm the beast nor did he, under British protocol, have to. And yet the expectation of two thousand natives leaves the "powerful" Brit with a gun powerless. The people with no power have all the psychological power to make the officer kill the elephant.