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Written by Timothy Sexton
"Shooting an Elephant"
Arguably the most famous of Orwell’s non-fiction essays is one in which the title pretty much gives the content away. Times have changed, significantly, of course and today the very title is enough to put off people from even bothering to read it. That would be a mistake as it is perhaps more surprising a narrative than one suspects. Consider, for instance, the two distinctly different metaphors working within this one paragraph to create imagery not just of the elephant, but Orwell’s reaction to it:
“As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoota working elephant—it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery—and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow.”
Orwell asserts that one can tell a lot about a country by the manner in which its soldiers march while in parade formation. He draws an especially intense inference from the goose-stepping march of Nazi soldiers”
“It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face.”
Working Class Struggle
In his essays “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” Orwell considers how the fascist government is so totally unprepared to meet the requirements of the working class through ideology and so instead relied on force and coercion to dominate. Even in the face of such oppression, however, the working class continued to rebel. He frames the reasoning behind this persistence within metaphorical terms:
“The struggle of the working class is like the growth of a plant. The plant is blind and stupid, but it knows enough to keep pushing upwards towards the light, and it will do this in the face of endless discouragements.”
Anti-British Sentiment in America
In “As I Please 3,” Orwell responds to criticism of a piece he had written earlier which some took as a display of anti-American sentiment displayed toward soldiers stationed in England. His response is to delineate anti-British sentiment exhibited by Americans including what he isolates as the typical American view of his countrymen:
“The typical Englishman is represented as a chinless ass with a title, a monocle and a habit of saying `Haw, haw.’”
What Is Tea?
In another of his most famous essays, Orwell describes how the perfect up of tea should be strong, bitter, unsweetened, grown on the Indian subcontinent, shaken OR stirred and made in a teapot. He is quite opinionated about all aspects of preparation and quite detailed. One might well ask what all the fuss is about, but fortunately Orwell provides the answer to that question in advance of getting to the details:
“tea is one of the mainstays of civilization”
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Julia is often crude and dismissive of the party, which alarms Winston. Outer Party members simply do not talk this way. This represents the idea that perhaps not everyone is totally brainwashed by the party.
George Orwell: Essays study guide contains a biography of George Orwell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of select short stories including Shooting an Elephant.