About “Shooting an Elephant”


In this account, set in 1936, George Orwell is a young police officer serving in Burma, India, which was then part of the British Empire. He has been sent to deal with a troublesome elephant.


Imagine you are George Orwell. Write a journal entry, describing your thoughts and feelings about the events described in Passage A.

I would never ever forget what I had experienced today. I shot an elephant. It was such a lovely creature, moving slowly, elegantly in the hot air, its grey skin was full of deep wrinkles, like the mountains and valleys on the map, the pattern of nature. But I pulled the trigger, still, watching the bullet penetrating its skin. I sank into grievance when I saw its huge body gradually tilted, fell into its shadow with a loud “thud”. The native villagers were cheering all around me, but my guilty hands were shaky, the gun slipped out from them and fell into the withered grass.


Select words and phrases from the descriptions, and explain how the writer has created effects by using this language.

Firstly, in the second paragraph, powerfulness of the native people was illustrated by writer with his detailed descriptions. First of all, the writer uses metaphor when describing the crowd of native people behind him as “the sea of yellow faces”. A sea usually covers a large area and is very deep. This highlights that the number of people who came to see the writer shooting an elephant was huge. Moreover, a sea, in certain climates, was violent, swaying everything on it with its choppy waves. This suggests the influence of the crowd over the writer. Even though the territory of the crowd of native people was colonized by the western countries, they could, however, put pressure on the writer, pushing him to do things that he did not want to do. Besides this, the writer also wrote that he “was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro”. A puppet wasn’t able to control himself, all of its performances on stage were carefully controlled and manipulated by its owner. The sentence portrayed the writer as a puppet. This vividly presents the situation of the writer, being completely controlled by the crowd, doing things that he knew were wrong but couldn’t fight back since he knew that if he did, he would be laughed at by the crowd. Therefore, through the use of metaphor, the writer expresses the idea that the native people were powerful.

At the same time, the native people doesn’t care about the lives of animals in India. This is shown as the writer describes what he saw: “[The native people] were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick.” A trick is usually a form of entertainment and usually brings people joy. On the other hand, killing an elephant should be taken far more seriously, since it is taking away a life, a hard-to-make choice that has no alternatives — it would be too dangerous to leave the elephant over here when the mahout is not here. Such important mission to do was “a trick”, “a bit of fun” in the eyes of the native people, and more over, they are happy and excited to watch shooting an elephant. The simile used here shows the relaxed and indifferent attitude of the natives of killing animals, and possibly showing the different culture and values in India.

In the fourth paragraph, the writer stresses the difficulty of attempting to shoot an elephant. He uses oxymoron as he recall what happened to an Indian who had been stepped on by an elephant and had reduced to a “grinning corpse”. A corpse, a dead body of a human, usually brings readers fear, pain, and to some extent, a sense of disgust. On the other hand, grinning is a common expression in people’s daily lives, often bringing people warmth and happiness. A few explanations of the reason why the writer uses two contradicting words are used by the writer at the same time are that, firstly, how quick death could come to a human being when being stepped by an elephant. The Indian was smiling before his death, and everything happened so quickly that his final expression was still left on his face. Secondly, this creates an eerie and disturbing scene, alarming and causing the readers to be uneasy. The writer also illustrates the high risk of his experience when he describes his predictions with a comparison: “If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller.” A steam-roller was a vehicle that is used to flatten the road. It has to be huge and heavy in order to do its job. If it crashes onto a human, he / she would undoubtedly die, not to say a toad. This description powerfully demonstrates the unimaginable hazard to the writer if he was going to test the behavior of the elephant or to shoot it. Both oxymoron and comparison used in the text effectively build up tension, and, successfully reflect the dangerousness of the writer’s actions.

Note: Personally, I would never shoot an elephant or choose a career anything like that. If you have been to South Africa, you will possibly believe that elephants are the loveliest animals on earth.

An analysis of Shooting an Elephant on Prezi

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