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“I often wondered whether any of the others grasped - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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“I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool .” “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”.

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“I often wondered whether any of the others grasped

that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.”

  • “In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by

large numbers of people – the only time in my life

that I have been important enough for this to

happen to me.”

shooting an elephant
Shooting an Elephant
  • Shooting an Elephant first appeared in 1936 in the autumn issue of New Writing, published twice a year in London from 1936 to 1946. 
  • Setting - Burma (present-day Myanmar) in the 1920s, when the country was a province of India. The action takes place in the town of Moulmein in the southern part of the province, called Lower Burma, a rice-growing region on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
historical background
Historical Background
  • Burma (present-day Myanmar) became a province of India on January 1, 1886, when India was part of the British Empire.  European interest in India began when the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrived there in 1498. In 1600, England chartered the East India Company to exploit Asian resources and within decades established trading posts in key Indian cities. Over the next two-and-a-half centuries, Britain expanded its economic interest in India. In 1858, Britain transferred control of India from the East India Company to the British government. The British overlords directly imposed their will and their ways on three-fifths of the populace in what became known as "British India" and indirectly on two-fifths of the populace in autonomous native states.  Meanwhile, after fighting three wars with the Burmese—the first from 1824 to1826, the second in 1852, and the third in 1885—the British gained control of Burma and incorporated it into India. Britons dominated the economic, political, and social life of their conquered lands. The British got the best jobs, held the top government posts, and exploited the natural resources. They also erected social barriers between themselves and the natives. All the while, native resentment of the English was building. In the twentieth century, this resentment continued to increase. George Orwell and other writers, were among dissident voices that called attention to the evils of British imperialism. 
shooting an elephant1
Shooting an Elephant
  • What was George Orwell’s purpose in writing Shooting an Elephant?
themes
Themes
  • The Evil of Imperialism
  • First, it humiliates the occupied people, reducing them to inferior status in their own country. Second, it goads the occupiers into making immoral or unethical decisions to maintain their superiority over the people. In “Shooting an Elephant,” the narrator acts against his own conscience to save face for himself and his fellow imperialists. 
  • Loss of Freedom in a Colonized Land
  • When imperialists colonize a country, they restrict the freedom of the natives. The imperialists also unwittingly limit their own freedom in that they tend to avoid courses of action that could provoke the occupied people. In “Shooting an Elephant,” the narrator realizes that he should allow the elephant to live, but he shoots the animal anyway to satisfy the crowd of natives who want him to kill it. He then says, 
  • ‘I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall 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. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.’
themes continued
Themes continued
  • Prejudice
  • Although the narrator seems to respect the natives as fellow human beings, other Europeans regard the Burmese and Indians with contempt—an attitude made clear near the end of the story: "[T]he younger [Europeans] said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie." Historically, the British placed their own men in positions of authority in the colonial government in India, which then incorporated Burma, and natives in inferior positions. Moreover, the British generally did not socialize with the natives. 
  • Resentment
  • The natives resent the presence of the British, as would any people subjected to foreign rule. They ridicule the British from a distance and laugh at them whenever an opportunity presents itself. In turn, many of the British despise the natives. There is constant tension between the occupier and the occupied. 
symbolism
Symbolism
  • mad elephant: Symbol of the British Empire. Like the elephant, the empire is powerful. When the elephant raids the bazaar (marketplace), he symbolizes the British Empire raiding the economy of Burma. When he kills the coolie, he represents the British oppressing the natives. 
  • dead coolie: Symbol of the downtrodden Burmese. Note that Orwell says his arms are outstretched like those of the crucified Christ. 
  • football (soccer): Symbol of British imposition of their culture on their colonies. Modern soccer was developed in England in the the 19th Century. mud: Symbol of the squalor in which the Burmese must live under British rule. It is also a symbol of the political mire that the British created for themselves when they colonized India and Burma. 
conflicted viewpoint
Conflicted viewpoint…
  • There is tension within Orwell between his feelings, his duties, and his conscience. Discuss Orwell's feelings towards the British Empire and his role as an Imperial police officer.
    • How does Orwell feel about the British presence in Burma? How does he feel about his job with the Indian Imperial police? What are some of the internal conflicts Orwell describes feeling in his role as a colonial police officer? How do you know?
    • He wrote and published this essay a number of years after he had left the civil service. How does Orwell describe his feelings about the British Empire, and about his role in it, both at the time he took part in the incident described, and at the time of writing the essay, after having had the opportunity to reflect upon these experiences? Ask students to point to examples in the text which support their view.
    • What did Orwell mean by the following sentence: It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism -- the real motives for which despotic governments act.
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Orwell repeatedly states in the text that he does not want to shoot the elephant. In addition, by the time that he has found the elephant, the animal has become calm and has ceased to be an immediate danger. Despite this, Orwell feels compelled to execute the creature. Why?

  • Orwell makes it clear in this essay that he was not a particularly talented rifleman. He explains that by attempting to shoot the elephant he was putting himself into grave danger. But it is not a fear for his "own skin" which compels him to go through with this course of action. Instead, it was a fear outside of "the ordinary sense." What did Orwell fear?
  • In colonial Burma a small number of British civil servants, officers and military personnel were vastly outnumbered by their colonial subjects. They were able to maintain control, in part, because they possessed superior firepower -- a point made clear when Orwell states that the "Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against (the elephant)." Yet, Orwell's description of the relationship between the Burmese and Europeans indicates that the division of power was not necessarily that simple. How did the Burmese resist their colonial masters through non-violent means?
irony
Irony
  • …The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.
  • When irony is employed by a writer the true intent of his or her words is covered up or even contradicted by the words that are used. Where is irony employed in this excerpt, and what is Orwell's true intent?
  • The use of irony often also presumes there being two audiences who will read or hear the delivery of the ironic phrase differently. One audience will hear only the literal meaning of the words, while another audience will hear the intent that lies beneath. Who are the two audiences to whom Orwell is speaking?
persuasive perspectives
Persuasive Perspectives
  • Orwell was both an accomplished and a prolific essayist whose work covered a large number of topics. Many of his essays are written as third person commentaries or reviews, such as his "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels." Orwell often chose to include himself in his essays, writing from a first person perspective, such as that employed in one of his most famous essays, "Politics and the English Language."
  • While he does not use the inclusive "we" in "Shooting an Elephant," Orwell's use of the first person perspective is a rhetorical strategy. Discuss Orwell's decision to utilize the first person perspective rather than the third person perspective. How does seeing the incident through both the eyes of Eric Blair, the young colonial police officer, and George Orwell, the reflective essayist, support Orwell's argument?
  • How does the story change by having the narrator not only present, but active, in the action of the story?
  • How does the use of the first person perspective create a sense of sympathy or understanding for Orwell's position?
  • Re-write a section of "Shooting an Elephant" from a different perspective- such as in the third person. What is gained by this shift in perspective? What is lost?
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1. Do you sympathize with the narrator? Explain your answer.

  • Re-write a section of "Shooting an Elephant" from a different perspective- such as in the third person. What is gained by this shift in perspective? What is lost?
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MetaphorComparison of Unlike Things Without Using Like, As, Than, or As If

  • I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. (Comparison of wills to a physical force) I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. (Comparison of the narrator to a puppet)